COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Ohio State Buckeyes traded third-period power-play goals and solid netminding, each earning a point in a 1-1 tie in Columbus Saturday.
“I felt good about the game,” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “I was much happier about our performance tonight than I was last night.”
With the tie and Friday night’s 4-2 win, Notre Dame takes three points away from Ohio State in the Irish’s opening games of CCHA play, the only regular-season meetings between the teams. The two games marked the end of seven games on the road, after which the Irish hold a 6-1-1 record.
“I thought that if we could be three and three in the nonconference games, I was going to be happy,” said Jackson. “We’re still building our program, and to make big steps…some of our seniors, some of our freshmen, have helped make us a better team this year.”
For the Buckeyes, who have been struggling early in the 2006-07 campaign, one point during a home series may not seem like much, but head coach John Markell said the outcome tonight could have been worse.
“We grinded out a point, and I was proud of our guys for responding from maybe a ‘C’ game [last night] to raising it to about a ‘B’ game.
“We’ll take a point at this point. We’re still trying to establish lines and establish our defensemen, and we’ve all got to get on the same page here, the effort it takes.”
After a scoreless two periods, Josh Sciba scored on the Notre Dame power play at 5:38 in the third, a shot from the right circle with an assist from Wes O’Neill. The Buckeyes answered with their own five-on-four goal at 17:38, when Tommy Goebel netted his second of the weekend from close in to the Irish net.
The Irish outshot the Buckeyes 33-25, and both teams benefited from solid goaltending, with senior David Brown making 24 saves for the Irish, and rookie Joseph Palmer recovering from a shaky Friday night performance with 32 stops.
“I thought Joe had a good game,” said Markell. “His angles were better, his depth was better. He responded the right way from a bad goal last night, and that’s what you want to see.”
Each team finished 1-for-7 on the power play.
Today’s game seemed crisper than Friday’s plodding 4-2 game, but they may have had something to do with the multipurpose nature of Value City Arena, said Jackson.
“The ice was much better. I didn’t realize until after I’d listen to the players talk. The ice was pretty bad last night. That’s probably part of the reason why last night’s game was the way it was, a little raggedy.”
The No. 10 Irish are off to their best start since the 1998-99 season, and are only seven wins away from equaling their win total of a year ago — and they’ve already won one more game than they did in the entire 2004-05 season. Jackson said he can see a difference in his team from a year ago, just based on their reaction to tonight’s tie game.
“I’m actually pleased right now, because our team is mad,” said Jackson. “I’m not so sure a year ago that this team would have been upset at giving up the point, giving up the tie, which is a good thing for our program.”
In a ceremony between the first and second periods of tonight’s game, Notre Dame associate head coach and OSU alumnus Paul Pooley (1981-84) was honored as the first men’s ice hockey player in Ohio State history to have his number retired. Pooley amassed 270 points in his four-year career a Buckeye, and was named Bauer National Player of the Year, first-team All American, and a Hobey Baker Finalist in 1984.
Next week, the Irish (6-1-1, 1-0-1 CCHA) return to South Bend to host Bowling Green Nov. 10-11, while the Buckeyes (2-5-1, 2-3-1 CCHA) welcome Western Michigan Nov. 9-10. Friday’s Ohio State game will be played at the Ohio Expo Center.