COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State Buckeyes (3-6-1, 2-3-1-1) used a little late game magic to defeat the Northern Michigan Wildcats (2-5-1, 1-3) 5-4 in Value City Arena Saturday night to split the weekend series.
Saturday’s game had very little resemblance to the 1-0 tilt that the Wildcats won on Friday night. Ohio State inserted Cal Heeter in net, who has started all of the Buckeyes’ Saturday matchups. He is now 3-1-1 on the season.
Buckeyes’ goaltender Dustin Carlson has started all first night matches and is 0-5, despite a respectable goals against average and save percentage. Ohio State coach John Markell said that he sees staying with the two-goaltender system for the foreseeable future.
“Carlson had a good game, a very good game (Friday night),” Markell said, “and Heeter got the win. They are both capable of playing as you could see tonight. Carlson’s save percentage is way up there, but he has no wins.”
The Wildcats stuck with Friday night starter Reid Ellingson, who falls to 2-2 on the season. Heeter had 18 saves on four goals against. Ellingson posted 24 saves with five goals against.
The victory for the Buckeyes was the first time Ohio State won at their home venue this season.
“We just kept it simple,” Ohio State forward John Albert said. “It was about time we scored some goals.”
Northern Michigan was less than nine minutes from their first sweep over Ohio State since the 2005-06 season. Since then, the series has been very even, with both teams winning eight games against the other.
Ohio State rallied numerous times to overcome deficits of 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3, before scoring the fifth and final goal with 3:32 seconds remaining in the game. Sergio Somma deflected a Shane Sims’ shot from the blue line, which beat the stick of Ellingson.
“We needed our best players scoring goals,” Ohio State coach John Markell said. “The effort was there. There was a couple big hits that guys on the bench stood up and cheered for. We weren’t down on ourselves down 2-0. We knew we were going to break at some point.”
Northern Michigan scored for the second consecutive night on the game’s first shot two minutes into the contest. Tyler Gron one-timed a shot past the stick of Heeter on a pass from Andrew Cherniwchan.
The Wildcats made it 2-0 late in the first on their second power play of the game when Mark Olver banged the puck into the net on a rebound following a shot by Justin Florek. Despite having the 2-0 lead, the Wildcats were outshot 11-5 in the first period.
Olver now has a four-game goal streak, as he scored the Wildcats’ only goal on Friday night.
Ohio State came back with five goals in the game’s final 30 minutes.
Albert started the rally by creating a turnover from Wildcats’ defenseman Scott Macaulay and beat the goalie on a breakaway at 10:57 of the second. Peter Boyd tied the game at two with 2:49 left in the second.
“(On Ohio States) first goal, one of our young defensemen turned the puck over and they went on a breakaway and that sort of was the crack in the armor,” Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle said. “It took the air out of the balloon a little bit. We were able to come back and chiseled away. We didn’t play the same game we did last night. They played much better.”
The Wildcats and Buckeyes traded goals for much of the third period. Billy Smith started the scoring for Northern Michigan to give them a 3-2 lead 1:25 into the third on a power play. Ohio State’s Cory Schneider answered at 5:52 for his first-ever collegiate goal.
The Wildcats got their final lead of the game on Andrew Cherniwchan’s power-play goal at 7:58 of the third. Ohio State’s Zac Dalpe responded less than four minutes later when he scored after receiving a cross-crease pass from Somma.
“We started creating opportunities and (Northern Michigan) started getting tired,” Markell said about the play of his forwards. “Now that is our job, to show them the tape and start getting them to do that all the time and prove to them they can score goals that way. It is tough when you are not scoring goals and you’re asking them to do that.”
“I noticed they came at us in waves for a while,” Kyle said. “It seemed we were just weathering the storm for sometime there. I think our forwards did a nice job covering their defensemen and (Ohio State’s) defensemen were able to create offense.”