COLUMBUS, Ohio — With balanced scoring and a 31-save performance from senior goaltender Wylie Rogers, the Alaska Nanooks defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes, 4-2, for their first win in Columbus since Feb. 22, 2003, and the first UA road win over OSU for this year’s Nanook seniors.
The victory was also the second for UA over OSU in 20 days, as the teams met in Fairbanks Dec. 14-15, when the Nanooks took three CCHA points from the Buckeyes.
“Being a senior, we were 0-4 coming in,” said Ryan Muspratt, whose second goal of the season put the Nanooks on the board at just 1:13 into the game. “It’s been pretty tough in the past. It’s great to get the first game.”
The Buckeyes drew to within one twice in the game but never really threatened to come back in spite of pressure late in the third that led to a goal by Nick Biando that made the game 4-2.
“It’s a situation we haven’t been in a whole lot, being up three goals with eight minutes left in the game,” said first-year UA head coach Doc DelCastillo. “I don’t think we handled that real well. [W]hen you do have a lead like that you do have to keep functioning as a team.”
The outburst of offense was something unusual for the Nanooks, who averaged 2.29 goals per game coming into the weekend. In addition to the goal by Muspratt, UA received scoring from Dion Knelsen, Dustin Sather and Nathan Lawrence. Sather also added an assist to his total to lead all UA players in scoring.
Even Rogers contributed to the even offensive effort, sending the pass up the ice that led to Lawrence’s goal at 4:30 in the third.
“It was nice because he made a conscious decision — I think it was going to be icing — and he decided to take it and move it up to Nate, and Nate made a great shot,” said DelCastillo. “It’s nice to see Wiley use his senior leadership and make a wise decision like that and then get rewarded for it.”
OSU head coach John Markell said that before tonight’s game, the Buckeyes were well aware of Rogers’ ability to jump into the play when given the chance. “You have to keep the puck away from Wylie Rogers. He gets to the puck, they reverse it very well and they get it up the ice. We didn’t do a good job of that and we went over it all week.”
The loss marked the sixth time that the Buckeyes have come up short at home against CCHA opponents this season. In fact, OSU has yet to win a league contest in Value City Arena. Last weekend, the Bucks beat No. 15 Harvard, 4-2, and lost to No. 1 Miami, 3-2, in the Ohio Hockey Classic. Markell was pleased with those contests, in which he said his team put forth a consistent effort. That effort, said Markell, was missing in action tonight.
“I think we have to understand that these guys played an immature game tonight,” said Markell, who added that “the effort was back” after OSU took a timeout at 4:30 in the third, when Lawrence scored and starting goaltender Dustin Carlson was replaced by Nick Filion.
Biando said that in comparison to last week’s game, it “was pretty obvious” that Ohio State played without passion tonight.
“We got outhit in the first period, pretty badly,” said Biando. “Then like Coach said, as soon as he took that time out…we turned it on. We had a sense of urgency in the last 10 minutes.
“We just have to find a way to have that sense of urgency for 60 minutes tomorrow night — maybe even 65 if we’re going to go into overtime, because they’re a pretty defensive hockey team so who knows how many chances you’re going to get.”
The Nanooks took the 1-0 lead on Muspratt’s goal, which he jokingly called “pretty.” Tyler Eckford shot from the left faceoff dot and hit Muspratt — not Muspratt’s tape, but the player himself — and the puck bounced in past Carlson to give the Nanooks the 1-0 lead after one.
“We won the draw there . . . and taking Coach’s advice I went to the net and stood in front,” said Muspratt. “He [Eckford] took a shot wide and it just hit me in the stomach, I think, or in the stick.”
Knelsen scored at 3:53 in the second for the 2-0 lead, a shot from the right circle that hit the corner of the crossbar and went in behind Carlson. Seven minutes later, Matt McIlvane answered on the OSU power play, picking up the garbage goal after Shane Sims’ shot from the top of the slot hit Rogers in the chest and fell to the crease, and it was a 2-1 game after two.
The Nanooks made it 4-0 on two goals less than a minute apart within the first five minutes of the third. At 3:41, Sather took a cross-crease pass from Braden Walls, who had drawn Carlson right to defend, giving Sather an open net for the back-door goal. Then at 4:30, Lawrence took the home-run pass from Rogers, skated in on an OSU line change and took his time in the right circle, firing and hitting the right post and then the twine.
It was at that point that Filion came in for Carlson, who himself was starting in place of Joseph Palmer. Palmer, a sophomore, is in Europe with Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament. It was the first action that Filion had seen since giving up two goals against Ferris State Feb. 3, 2007.
Markell said that the goalie switch was less an assessment of Carlson’s play than a game-changing necessity. “That was just momentum. The young guy, he was left hanging to dry, a freshman who made freshman mistakes.”
The move worked to motivate the Buckeyes, too little, too late. ” I think we saw what we can do in the last 10 minutes, when there’s desperation and passion,” said Markell. “That has to come from within, as a hockey player.”
Carlson finished with 27 saves on 31 shots; Filion stopped all three shots he faced in the 13:10 he played. For the last 2:10 of the game, the net was empty.
Alaska (4-10-3, 4-7-2 CCHA) and Ohio State (6-15-2, 2-10-1 CCHA) face off again at 7:05 Saturday in Value City Arena for the last of four regular-season meetings.
“We need points tomorrow,” said Markell. “Second half of the season, I can’t be worrying about what just happened. I’ve got to figure out what we can do about it, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”