DAYTON, Ohio — With two third-period power-play goals, the Ohio State Buckeyes turned a deficit into a 2-1 win over the Mercyhurst Lakers to advance to play Wisconsin in Saturday’s title game of the Lefty McFadden College Hockey Invitational.
“I think it was a good game,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I thought Mercyhurst was right there with us, and our guys did well under fire. I thought our older guys stepped up at the right time.”
Senior Tommy Goebel’s first goal at 39 seconds into the third tied the game, and rookie Peter Boyd’s first career tally at 9:47 was the game-winner, and sophomore Joseph Palmer made 27 saves as the Buckeyes outfired the Lakers 48-28 in the contest.
Senior Ryan Toomey’s power-play goal at 3:22 in the second was Mercyhurst’s only tally. Junior Matt Lundin, who played through shoulder problems, stopped 46-of-48.
“I thought our guys played hard,” said Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin. “I thought we played pretty well. Matt Lundin is a warrior in goal. He really fought through a lot of things and gave us a chance, and I really thought from a systems standpoint we have a lot of room to improve, but our guys did a lot of good things tonight.”
After the scoreless first period, the Lakers took the 1-0 lead in the second when Toomey shuffled the puck in behind Palmer to finish their second power play of the game, a tally that seemed inevitable given the traffic in front of the OSU net and the lack of defensive support. Palmer made a save on a shot by Ben Cottreau, but the puck came to the stick of Brandon Coccimiglio, who swept it to the waiting Toomey stationed near the left post.
Tom Fritsche drew a slashing penalty from Kirk Medernach 12 seconds into the third, right off the opening faceoff, which led to Goebel’s goal, on which Fritsche assisted just 27 seconds later.
“We practice the power play a lot, because we realize how big special teams are,” said Goebel. “Buzz [Fritsche] just made a great play, came off the wall and I got open back-door. Buzz did all the work there.”
Midway through the period, the Buckeyes made quick work of their next power play, when the Lakers were called for too many men. Boyd put himself in the perfect position to pick up Matt McIlvane’s rebounded shot, and the second goal held up to be the game-winner.
“I thought the Peter Boyd goal showed some patience, walking out from the corner,” said Markell. “That’s hard to teach and he knew how to do that.”
Markell said that the Buckeyes, who dressed nine and played eight freshmen, didn’t start the game with the jump he would have liked, but that he was happy with the adjustments his squad made en route to the victory.
“I thought the young kids came along, especially the defensemen, you know, with the speed of the game. I didn’t think we were doing a good job through the neutral zone, and we were catching ourselves.
“I told them before the game that it’s going to hit a little harder; there are no ‘excuse me’ hits … they’ve got quicker sticks, they slash to hurt — it’s all those little things you can’t do in practice that will happen in a game. So, guess what? You show your immaturity a little bit in the first couple of periods and then we started getting it in deep.
“I thought in the second half of the third period we started to get some momentum going and got a little better, but any time we got cute, it was right back down our throat.”
Gotkin said he was more than satisfied with his team’s opening-night effort.
“We thought we outplayed them, we carried the play in the first period,” said Gotkin. “Halfway through the second period, it looked like it started to switch a little bit. I thought, maybe it’s a mental thing, maybe it’s a physical thing, but … somewhere through the second period, It looked like they raised it a little bit of a notch and we were kind of chasing them around.
“We came out of the second period up one-nothing, and we came out of that feeling kind of good.
“We had a bad start to the third period … forcing the penalty, and then they score a nice power-play goal. Then we make a bad line change … somebody jumped too early, and there’s your game-winning goal.”
The Buckeyes went 2-for-4 on the power play to Mercyhurst’s 1-for-5.
Both Gotkin and Markell know that there is work to do before Saturday’s matches. The Lakers take on the Irish at 4:35 p.m., and the Buckeyes and Badgers go at it at 7:35 p.m.
“Really, the trick now is to puck ourselves up off the floor here quickly, and play a pretty good Notre Dame team tomorrow who’s probably a little mad,” said Gotkin. “That’s going to be tough for us.”
Mercyhurst and Notre Dame have not met since the 1990-91 season, and from that ancient history, the Irish are 3-0-0 all-time against the Lakers.
Ohio State has never beaten Wisconsin, although the teams have only met twice since 1969. The Badgers last beat the Buckeyes in Lambeau Field on Feb. 11, 2006, by a score of 4-2.
“They don’t look pretty strong; they look very strong,” said Markell of UW. “That’s why they’re one of the perennial powers.
“We’re just going to try to survive there tomorrow, and play a good game against them. They’re coming with some strength. They play a good defensive game, and then they can transition right back down your throat, as we saw in the first game.”