COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State Buckeyes, coming off two consecutive wins against top 10 teams, found themselves with an opportunity for a first bye in the CCHA playoffs and are in a fight for a possible at-large NCAA tournament bid.
One of those two victories came at the hands of the Miami RedHawks Friday in Oxford when the
Buckeyes won, 6-2. The loss knocked Miami back onto the bubble, given the importance of the Pair Wise rankings.
Miami won the battle of bubble teams, 7-5, in front of 9,012 in Value City Arena Saturday night.
Last night, Ohio State played extremely well, Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. Tonight, I thought we did a nice job executing when we had opportunities and got up to an early lead. I thought for the most part, we did a better job protecting the puck.
Ohio State finishes the season in fifth in the CCHA and will play Bowling Green in the OSU Ice Rink next weekend; the team’s auxiliary home for the first round of the CCHA playoffs. Ohio State has not played a non-exhibition match at their old home since a first round CCHA matchup against Northern Michigan in 2007.
The OSU Ice Rink has a capacity of 800, much smaller than their normal home of 17,500. If Ohio State advances, they will play at Alaska the following week. Alaska finishes one point ahead of Ohio State for fourth place.
It would have been nice to have a bye, Ohio State senior forward Corey Elkins said. But who knows what a weekend off would have done to our team
It is a new season, Ohio State coach John Markell said. We came within one point to getting fourth place and we played six games against top six teams in the nation, but you’re going to have to back up good games with good games in the playoffs. There is no tomorrow.
Who wants to play there, you know? Elkins said of the OSU Ice Rink. What can you do? Is one of those thing we have to accept and go to the grind. Nobody wants to play in there.
Miami will get a first round bye in the next week and will await first round action to see who will dance with them in Steve Cady Arena in two weeks. Michigan also won Saturday, thus both teams finish tied for second. Michigan holds the tiebreaker with more league wins and the Wolverines get the two seed, Miami the three. Blasi said that the difference between a two or three seed does not matter to him.
Miami made some major changes from the previous night. All four forward lines and three defensive pairings were changed from Friday’s game for the RedHawks.
We have 26 guys that; doesn’t matter who is in the lineup, we love each other and we’re going to go out there and battle and I think it showed tonight, Miami forward Justin Mercier said. Mercier went from playing on left wing Friday to the right side in Saturday’s victory.
This coaching staff is famous for moving people around, so (the lines) might be different when the playoffs start, Blasi said. Like Justin said, we have 26 guys that we count on. Whoever we decide to play and whatever position, they’re going to go out and play hard I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few changes in a couple weeks.
Miami had a 6-2 lead going into the final 10 minutes of the game. Ohio State rallied with three goals to get within one. Miami sealed the victory with a Mercier goal with exactly one minute left into Ohio State’s vacated net.
We just didn’t play a good two periods, Markell said. There is no doubt about it. The kids are disappointed, and we’re disappointed to come that close and not get it done especially after a game we played last night.
Unlike the previous night where Miami got down 2-0, Miami was the one to take the early lead.
Brian Kaufman scored his ninth of the season 5:54 into the game on the power play as he redirected a cross-crease pass from Tommy Wingels to open scoring. Justin Mercier scored his ninth of the season at 12:58 of the first to give the RedHawks a 2-0 lead as he had a shot from the right point beat Ohio State goaltender Dustin Carlson.
Miami carried the momentum into the second when Kaufman scored his second of the game after knocking in a puck that had been bouncing around the crease following a Chris Wideman shot 2:41 into the middle frame.
Ohio State would try to climb back into the game at 9:34 of the second. Kyle Reed notched his fifth point of the season when he made a nifty pass backwards to trailing forward Peter Boyd who beat the Miami goaltender Connor Knapp.
Miami answered less than a minute after OSU’s shorthanded goal with a goal from Aiden Hirschfeld.
Ohio State once again tried to make a game of it when Boyd scored his second of the game 1:49 into the third when he stole the pick from Miami’s Jarod Palmer and beat Knapp on a breakaway. Again
Miami responded. Less than three minutes later, Hirschfeld scored his second of the game off of a rebound from a Brandon Smith shot. Miami’s Andy Miele scored on a breakaway at 9:07 of the third to give Miami a 6-2 lead.
Ohio State forward Hunter Bishop scored with 8:19 left for his team leading 13th goal of the season to start Ohio State’s third period rally. Elkins scored two goals in a span of 24 seconds with the Buckeyes’ net empty in the final two minutes of the game.
Saturday was Miami’s fourth game in Value City Arena this season, second against Ohio State. Miami was winless in Columbus this season before winning Saturday. Blasi said no mentioned was made to his players of the previous games in Columbus.
We like coming to Columbus, Blasi said with a grin.