COLUMBUS, Ohio — With little but pride on the line for the remainder of this disappointing season, the Buckeyes proved that nothing’s really over until it’s over. With less than one second left on the clock, Tommy Goebel tipped in John Albert’s shot from the right point to lift Ohio State over Northern Michigan, 3-2.
“Johnny made a great pass,” said Goebel. “I just came to the net and tipped it in. I had no clue how much time was left on the clock, so I didn’t even know that was an issue. It felt good.”
Referee Matt Shegos reviewed the goal to determine whether the puck crossed the line before the buzzer sounded.
“Shegos told me it was it was .11 left,” said Goebel, who lurked near the review monitor after the goal.
“He made the right call,” said NMU coach Walt Kyle. “It was a legit goal. We had couple guys just stop playing. They thought it was an icing and they stopped playing.
“It’s a bad way to learn a good lesson.”
Peter Boyd had the first two OSU goals and Joseph Palmer had 14 saves in his eighth win of the season. Gregor Hanson and Mark Olver had both of the Wildcats’ goals, both in the second period, and Brian Stewart stopped 29 of OSU’s 32 shots on net.
Boyd’s first goal of the night at 19:38 in the first gave the Buckeyes the 1-0 lead after one. After Alan Dorich intercepted Johann Kroll’s pass from the neutral zone, Boyd stripped Dorich of the puck, skated behind the cage from left to right, and wrapped the puck in off of Stewart’s outstretched glove hand for the 1-0 lead, breaking the NMU goaltender’s 141:55 streak of shutout hockey.
“I was looking for Buzz [Tom Frtische] because I heard him yelling on the side,” said Boyd, “but then I took a quick look and he dropped, so I figured I’d take it around the net and see what happens. I was fortunate enough that he couldn’t get back in time.”
The late first-period marker didn’t provide the Buckeyes with any momentum going into the second. Although they outshot the Wildcats 12-9 in the middle stanza, it was NMU that came away with the lead after two.
On Hanson’s goal, Jared Brown battled for the puck along the boards and passed out to Erik Spady, who skated in from the bench near the left circle. Spady skated through the Buckeyes’ defense and across the crease as he backhanded the puck to the net. Palmer saved it, but Hanson picked up the rebound to tie the game at 12:01.
Olver’s 12th of the season came on a NMU power play at 16:06. Nick Sirota passed from the left point to Olver at the right, and Olver one-timed it short-side to make it a 2-1 game.
With the two goals and a shot differential of 9-2, the third belonged to Ohio State.
“I thought they came out with a ton of energy,” said Kyle. “I thought they came out really, really hard. I didn’t think in the third we played very well. I thought they controlled the third period.”
Boyd scored his second of the night at 16:08 with the man advantage. With two Wildcats’ defenders knotted at the top of the slot to defend against Nick Biondo, Biondo passed right to Boyd, whose shot from the point beat Stewart five-hole to tie the game 2-2.
By the look of Stewart’s reaction to the tally, it was one goal the NMU netminder would have liked to have been able to replay.
“I thought it was a good shot,” said Boyd, “but then I looked at the replay. It squiggled in. I’ll take it, I guess.”
It looked as though the game was heading into overtime when Albert’s shot found Goebel in front of the Wildcats’ net for the senior’s 19th goal of the season. The goal was a lesson in contrasts. As Kyle said, the Wildcats were winding down for overtime, while the Buckeyes were still pushing to score.
“We didn’t quit on them,” said Markell.
The win was just the fourth home win of the season for Ohio State and third in CCHA play. It couldn’t have come in more dramatic fashion or on a more welcome night; with one midweek home game remaining this season, the Buckeyes were honoring their seniors tonight.
Because it was Senior Night, the game began on as interesting note as it ended. Fifth-year senior Phil Lauderdale, now in his first year of law school at Ohio State, started between the pipes, playing 49 seconds before being replaced by Palmer. In the only game action he’s ever seen, Lauderdale faced no shots but did play the puck behind the Buckeyes’ net.
“Obviously, we weren’t going to get him into the end of the game, so we decided to start him,” said Markell. “He deserved it. He’s been here five years, he’s great academically, and he bleeds Scarlet and Gray. He’s a real inspiration to the rest of the guys that academics can take you wonderful places and [you] can still enjoy the game of hockey.
“I was just hoping that when he went around behind that net that he didn’t fall.”
“I was so happy because the kid’s worked so hard for so long,” said Goebel, a senior who transferred from Michigan State after his sophomore season. “The year I sat out, he came out on the ice with me for hours and worked with me, gave me someone to shoot on. It pumped us all up.”
With just four regular-season games remaining this season, Northern Michigan (13-16-3, 10-12-2 CCHA) will host Nebraska-Omaha for two games next weekend, Feb. 22-23. Ohio State (10-21-3, 6-16-2 CCHA) heads to Notre Dame for two on the same dates.