COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even a week off could not stop the surging Ohio State Buckeyes, as Danny Dries’ two-goal effort led the Buckeyes over the No. 11 Lake Superior State Lakers, 5-2, in front of 3,284 spectators in Value City Arena Friday evening.
The Buckeyes, ranked seventh in the USCHO poll, jumped to No. 1 in the PairWise rankings with Merrimack losing to Providence Friday. Ohio State also leaped over Notre Dame for first place in the CCHA.
Ohio State is riding an eight-game winning streak and 10-game unbeaten streak. Ohio State had Thanksgiving weekend off after sweeping Michigan two weekends ago for the first time since 1989.
“Whenever you’re winning games, everyone is happy,” Dries said. “We have a pretty young team, so they come in and they’re all excited and I think that is coming over to the older guys. It is energizing us. A lot of people talk about older guys helping the young guys, but I think it goes both ways.”
Both the Buckeyes and Lakers have improved since their first-round battle in the CCHA Championships in March, when Lake Superior swept Ohio State out of the playoffs.
“I think they are pretty humble (about our success),” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “I think it is kind of like let’s worry about ourselves and worry about the next day. There is not a lot of rah-rah. I think that is a good sign. I think our captains (Cory Schneider and Sean Duddy) have done an outstanding job keeping them grounded. It is a long year, and you certainly don’t win anything right now.”
The Lakers remain in third place in the CCHA. Lake Superior State will look to avoid its first sweep of the season Saturday, as the two teams rematch at 8:05 p.m.
The Buckeyes had a 2-0 first period lead and never looked back.
“We need a better first period,” Lakers coach Jim Roque said. “When you’re on the road and you’re playing a good team, just like us last week at home against Notre Dame, we got up early on them at home and they had to fight to come back. In this league, if you’re going to play from behind on the road, it is really tough.”
Dries’ first goal was the eventual game-winner, and came 4:50 into the third period. His shot came from behind the net of Lakers goalie Kevin Kapalka. The shot bounced off of Kapalka’s leg and into the net, which gave OSU a 3-0 lead.
“The puck ended up behind the net, and we talk a lot about just getting the puck to the net and good things will happen,” Dries said. “I saw (Kapalka) was a little off the post, so I figured I would give it a shot.”
Lake Superior State tried to stay close in the third. Kevin Czuczman went top shelf on Buckeyes goalie Cal Heeter, beating the goaltender’s glove to put LSSU on the board at 3-1 midway through the period.
Alex Szczechura scored 3:12 after Czuczman’s goal to put Ohio State up 4-1 on a wild bounce that came from a Curtis Gedig shot from the point.
Buddy Robinson put the Lakers back within two in the final five minutes with his shot that sailed over the blocker of Heeter. Dries put the game away with his empty-net goal from 180 feet away with 2:51 remaining to put the Buckeyes up 5-2.
The Buckeyes dominated the first period outshooting the Lakers 17-4. Ohio State got on the board 7:32 into the first when Alex Lippincott picked Kyle Jean’s pocket and fired a wrist shot past the glove of Kapalka.
Chris Crane gave the Buckeyes a 2-0 advantage 64 seconds before the first intermission when his baseball-style swing knocked a waist-high centering pass from Ryan Dzingel past the stick of Kapalka.
“I thought they had an excellent first period, took it to us hard,” Roque said. “They got a 2-0 lead at home, and that is what you want to do if you’re the home team. We then had to play from behind all the way through. Obviously that third goal in the third period was huge.”
The second period belonged to the Lakers as they outshot the Buckeyes, 13-8, but were unable to get a notch on the scoreboard, despite a flurry of activity around Heeter.
“We didn’t have our normal skating legs,” Osiecki said about the last two periods. “Hockey is a tough sport. You get two days off away from the ice and you’re going to lose it and it is going to take you a while to get it back.”