DAYTON, Ohio — It had to happen sometime.
With goals from five different players and a solid performance by sophomore netminder Joseph Palmer, the Ohio State Buckeyes outlasted the surprised Wisconsin Badgers, 5-3, for their first hockey win over Big Ten rival UW.
“I’m happy with our whole team,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I thought we responded well to last night, and I thought that we responded well tonight.”
Senior John Dingle’s second goal of the weekend, late in the second on the power play, held up to be the game-winner to give the Buckeyes their first 2-0 start since the 1999-2000 season.
“Two wins, especially coming from being down … are both really great wins,” said Dingle. “It’s huge to have a great start like that.”
Goals by senior Matt McIlvane and freshman Sergio Somma gave Ohio State a 2-0 lead before the four-minute mark of the first, on just three shots on net, and before the Badgers had registered a shot of their own, and none of it was what the Badgers expected.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted,” said UW head coach Mike Eaves. “I think the large part is they played cranked up, they played at a higher pace than we saw last night and we weren’t ready for it. We talk about getting that first goal and we got behind and could never quite get back again.”
McIlvane’s slowish shot from near the intersection of the blue line and the boards at the top of the right circle beat Wisconsin goaltender Shane Connelly five-hole at 2:12 and so rattled the Badgers that they went to the penalty box 35 seconds later. On that power play, Somma caught Kyle Hood’s rebound at 3:46, giving OSU that early 2-0 lead.
Wisconsin took advantage of a four-on-three power play at 8:50 to draw within one, when Jamie McBain took a pass from Kyle Turris in the slot to get one past a screened Palmer, making it 2-1.
OSU took a two-goal lead again when Patrick Schafer, knocked into the crease by a Badger defender, returned the favor by knocking in the puck, unassisted, to make it 3-1, but UW cut that lead less than two minutes later. From the boards at the far side of the left circle, Brendan Smith found Ben Street between the circles and Street fired, dinging something hard before the puck went in behind Palmer to draw the Badgers within one again.
Wisconsin announced its collective presence with authority at the start of the second, when Turris scored his second goal of the weekend, on a fast break at 2:20. McBain nearly had his second of the night for the Badgers just two minutes later, when his shot hit the right post and then the crossbar before scuttling harmlessly away.
Both teams settled into a smoother second, but the Buckeyes made the Badgers pay for an interference call late in the play with another go-ahead goal, this time with Dingle’s one-timer at 18:29, and OSU led again by one going into the third.
“My position on the power play is pretty phenomenal,” said Dingle. “I just sit in front of the net and that’s about it. Peter Boyd, a freshman, made a really nice play to get the puck over, and we’ve been going over that in practice. He can’t make it pretty, so I have to be kind of light on my stick, and sure enough the puck got there and it was just a tap-in. There was not much else to do but put it in the net.”
The Buckeyes found themselves in a two-man hole for more than a minute near the start of the third, and the successful penalty kill cemented OSU’s win. The Badgers couldn’t buy a break during their advantage with Turris first hitting the far post from the top of the left circle, and Ryan McDonagh unable to get enough wood on a juicy gift of a puck at the bottom of the right post, with some wide-open net and Palmer scrambling for position.
At the end of that kill and down just one man, Buckeye Kyle Reed broke in on Connelly, eating up much of the rest of the UW advantage.
And just 1:32 after the Buckeyes returned to full strength, after pressing Wisconsin in the Badger end, Corey Elkins made it 5-3 when he picked Davis Drewiske’s pocket in front of the UW net and backhanded it past Connelly, five-hole.
“That was one of those turning points in the game,” said Eaves. “Kyle, he blasted several good shots and if one finds the net, it’s a 4-4 game, instead, right after they kill it, they steal the puck and put it in and put it out of reach for us. Other than [not] putting the puck in the net, we did good things on the five-on-three.
“We had our chances five-on-three. We battled to put ourselves in position to create some scoring chances but didn’t make it 4-4, and then they take it the next step and make it 5-3.”
On yet another power play later in the period, McDonagh again found himself with a nice target, with Palmer drawn left and the right side of the goal open, but when he fired, he broke his blade on the ice and the puck scooted wide of the net.
The Buckeyes finished the night 2-for-7 on the power play, the Badgers 1-for-6. Palmer made 27 saves for OSU, Connelly 25 for UW.
After the game, both Markell and Eaves emphasized the youth of their squads. The Buckeyes dressed eight freshmen to the Badgers’ seven, but OSU also had seven senior skaters while UW fielded just three. And Ohio State’s freshmen include a mix of older players with the young, while Wisconsin’s rookies are young. Three of OSU’s freshmen are drafted, while four UW players are spoken for — three in the first round.
“Are we where we want to be? No, but it’s a good start with a young team,” said Markell. “We did it with guys in different positions. Schafer getting his first goal, taking it to the net, young Boyd taking it to the net. Our veterans killing off those penalties — it’s big.”
“There were moments when we were very good,” said Eaves. “There were also moments when we played when we played reckless, which is the product of having a young team.
“There’s lots to learn. We’ll just go back to the drawing board. In this league [the CCHA] to be good, you’ve got to be consistent both nights, and we’ve got to find our consistency factor. So we go back to work on Monday.”
Next week, the Buckeyes (2-0-0) begin CCHA action in a home-and-home series Friday and Sunday against instate rival Miami, while Wisconsin (1-1-0) hosts Robert Morris Friday and Saturday.