COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the second time in as many games, the Ohio State Buckeyes came from behind to beat the Alaska Nanooks, earning a 3-2 win, their fourth consecutive victory, and their first home sweep of the 2006-07 season.
But in spite of the four league points earned this weekend, Ohio State head coach John Markell was in collusion with Alaska skipper Tavis MacMillan about one point: UA played better than the weekend’s outcome indicated.
“I want to give everything to Alaska,” said Markell. “I thought they played well. They probably deserved a better fate than what they got this weekend. My compliments to them. I think they’re going to beat a lot of teams here before the end.”
The loss was the fifth in a row for the Nanooks, who dropped two games last weekend to in-state rival Alaska.
“For the first time in a long time, I didn’t know what to say,” said MacMillan. “I just feel so bad for our kids right now. I don’t feel bad for myself. I’m 36 years old; I’m a grown man, but these guys are working so hard. I really feel…in the last couple of weekends, we’re 0-and-4, and — not to take anything away from Anchorage or from Ohio State — but I just feel like our kids deserve a better fate.”
Markell was quick to give credit to his own squad where credit was due, especially to the line of Kenny Bernard, Mathieu Beaudoin and Bryce Anderson, who were instrumental on OSU’s tying and game-winning goals.
“I also want to give kudos to our guys,” said Markell. “I thought we buckled down and our senior line of Kenny Bernard, Bryce Anderson, and Matt Beaudoin…we challenged them a little bit [to] change the momentum of this game, to change the tempo of the game we’re playing at.”
The line did just that, in both mundane and dramatic fashion in the third period. Down 2-1 nearly midway through the stanza, Anderson scored the tying goal from Beaudoin on a bounce of the puck in traffic in front of the net at the 8:00 mark, and Bernard netted the game-winner on a dramatic breakaway at 16:16.
“We wanted to continue on with what we thought we could get away with,” said Markell, “and we finally got a break on the chip-out where Kenny got a breakaway. If we can put pressure on them, obviously [with] a good bounce…Anderson put it through.
“I thought it was a very even game. We capitalized on our opportunities. Alaska, their kid in nets played well and their team played well. We were one goal better today. That’s all it was.”
After a scoreless first period, the Buckeyes took the lead at 4:00 in the second with their fifth power-play goal in the series. With the Bucks cycling the puck and collapsing the envelope, Tommy Goebel passed low to Dominic Maiani, whose attempt to center to Matt McIlvane was blocked by Nanook Darcy Campbell. The puck came right back to Maiani, who put it past UA goaltender Wyle Rogers on the short side, near to the left post.
The Nanooks returned the favor just over two minutes later, with Dion Knelsen’s power-play tally at 6:06. Taking a pass from Nathan Fornataro, Knelsen bounced the puck up and over the left shoulder of OSU goaltender Joseph Palmer to tie the game.
The Nanooks took a 2-1 lead into the third with Aaron Lee’s shorthanded goal at 17:19. Lee began the play himself with a clear from the Nanook end, which found its way to Braden Walls. Walls returned the puck to Lee, who motored into the OSU zone, picked up the puck, found his way around a prone Buckeye defender while sliding right to left across the crease, and dished back to the open right side of the net for the go-ahead goal.
But the Buckeyes redoubled their efforts in the third as they have through their four-game win streak, increasing the tempo and controlling the play, leading to their tying and winning goals.
On Anderson’s second goal of the season, Jason DeSantis shot in from the blue line hitting Beaudoin’s stick. The puck came to Anderson skate and then his stick; the senior popped it in stick side for the tying goal.
Bernard’s game-winning goal couldn’t have been much more dramatic. Matt Waddell cleared the puck over the heads of two jumping Nanook defenders along the right boards in the Buckeye end as Bernard was breaking out. Bernard flew down the left wing past any remaining opposition and went in alone on Rogers, beating the Nanook junior clean and low for the game-winning marker.
MacMillan said that the play that led to the Buckeye win was one that the Nanook coaching staff had warned its players to watch out for.
“We talked to the guys with our forecheck about that middle defenseman, who in that situation was Steve Vanoosten, [is] the failsafe,” said MacMillan. “You have to keep everything in front of you. Ohio State did it yesterday, to their credit. They throw it off the glass and get in a foot race. He [Waddell] just threw it off the glass to relieve pressure, and their guy one the foot race.
“The video we went over yesterday was exactly those scenarios, and how to defend against that. If you want to create sustained offensive pressure then that failsafe defenseman has to keep him in front of him and he never did.”
MacMillan, who was unhappy with Chad Johnson’s performance in net Friday, said that he had no problems with Rogers today.
“I thought Wylie played well,” said MacMillan. “That’s a nice deke. That’s really tough. You see those NHL guys in the shootout, they come in down, do that little leave behind and shoot it at the five-hole — that’s a nice move. Bernard made a real nice move.
“I thought Wylie played well. I was happy with the way he played. Unfortunately, we’re a team right now that needs him to make that save.”
Rogers finished the game with 25 saves on 28 shots; Palmer backstopped 17-of-19. Both teams were 1-for-6 on the power play.
Alaska (7-9-4, 5-6-3) buses Monday to East Lansing to play two games against Michigan State Jan. 12-13. Ohio State (9-9-4, 7-6-3 CCHA) sees its next action in a home-and-home series against Miami Jan. 19 and 21.