MARQUETTE, Mich. — Round one of the CCHA playoffs began at the Berry Events Center Friday as the sixth seeded Northern Michigan Wildcats took on the 11th seed Ohio State Buckeyes. The two teams came in boasting an even rivalry of 30-30-3 and both were looking to take the first game of this crucial series.
Last season, the Buckeyes faced the Wildcats at home during the first round. After the Wildcats lost 6-2 the first night, they swapped senior goalie Bill Zaniboni for freshman Brian Stewart and stole the series with wins on Saturday and Sunday.
With Stewart in goal to kick off the playoffs this time around, the Wildcats were out for a win. The Buckeyes had other things in mind as Tommy Goebel put the puck past Stewarts left skate into the corner of the net at 6:34 of the first period. John Albert and Jason DeSantis recorded assists on the goal.
It was kind of fluky, Goebel said. I just snuck in the short side somehow and I think he got the other one back, but Ill take it.
The Wildcats retaliated with a power-play goal at 15:39. Erik Gustafsson passed the puck across the ice to Matt Siddall who shot the puck towards the net in one motion. Freshman Jared Brown tipped it in to tie up the game.
With 1:21 left in the first the Buckeyes regained their lead with shot from Patrick Schafer, Chris Reed and Peter Boyd. The puck went underneath Stewart and into the left corner of the net.
Theres a little bit of apprehension [with our younger players], Wildcat coach Walt Kyle said. When you fall behind thats when inexperience shows.
They have the players that capitalize your mistakes and thats playoff hockey, Siddall said. What do you do? Just try to play a good angle or give it to someone else. Those guys are flying and theyre some of the best players in the league. Tonight we gave them too much ice and thats what a team like thats going to do. Theyre going to play well.
The second period was in Ohio States favor. At 10:47 Goebel fed the puck to DeSantis who came up the center and put it left of Stewart.
We didnt get over excited, DeSantis said. We stuck to the game plan. When we get pucks deep is when were on our game. We were just throwing everything we could at the net, just crashing it and create anything we could. We just threw pucks to the net.
The Buckeyes increased their lead to 4-1 at 13:54 with a power-play goal from Todd Rudasill who sent the puck right of Stewarts right skate from the right faceoff circle. DeSantis and Goebel had the assists giving them each three points for the game.
Goebel and DeSantis, theyre our seniors, leading by example, Buckeye coach John Markell said. They have to lead the way. They have the experience. Theyve been there before. They know how to chip in and be a part of it.
The Wildcats went into the third outshooting the Buckeyes 18-13. At 16:07, Siddall scored with assists from Gustafsson and Tim Hartung.
As the clock ran down, Northern pulled their goalie to give them a 6 on 5 advantage. With 1:56 left, TJ Miller scored with assists from Gustafsson and Mark Olver to end the game 3-4, giving the Buckeyes the series lead.
The first three shifts they were all over us but we hung with it and we went up 4-1, Markell said. They came back ardently. Joe made some good saves, especially in the second period. Our guys put a great effort in and learned a great lesson: that its not over til its over. We got it done. We got the W and we move forward.
I was disappointed in how we finished the game, Goebel said. We were 4-1, we should have been able to put it away. But well be ready for tomorrow. Northerns a big, strong, physical team and they came on our D pretty hard and I thought we did a good job on the night.
We got close, Siddall said, but you cant think you can go out and play 10 minutes of good hockey and beat a team of that caliber.
Their goalie was good tonight and we have to get back in the saddle, Kyle said. Its not a one game shot. Its a three game series, like a three period game. They won the first period. We have to win the second and third.
The two teams square off again Saturday night. Face off is set for 7:35 EST.