COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the ice accumulated outside Value City Arena Friday night, the No. 13-ranked Ferris State Bulldogs held onto dear life as they nearly squandered a four-goal lead away to the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes.
But the Bulldogs pieced together a remarkable 5-on-3 penalty kill to defeat the Buckeyes 4-3.
“We were sleepwalking,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “We don’t have much practice with three- and four-goal leads. That was really evident tonight. It is not something that is in our game plan.”
Ferris State is undefeated in 2012 at 4-0-1 since Jan. 1. The once-top team in the PairWise standings, Ohio State is winless in the same time span at 0-3-2.
“We felt in control,” Ferris State defender Kyle Bonis said. “We trust everyone who gets out there to kill penalties and when you have a goalie like Taylor Nelson, you feel comfortable out there.”
The Bulldogs’ saga began at 12:39 into the third period with Ferris State leading 4-2. FSU forward Eric Alexander rammed into OSU leading scorer Chris Crane and knocked the Buckeye down to the ice. The hit caused Crane to remain on the ice for several minutes while his teammates chirped at the opponents.
As Crane skated the hit off, Alexander was ejected and was given a major penalty for contact to the head and a game disqualification that will also force him out of tomorrow’s rematch.
“I caught part of it and I got to say I don’t disagree with the official at all,” Daniels said. “I have been a real advocate of late with all the information that has come out on concussions about contact to the head injuries. Whatever we can do to protect kids and not have them walking out with concussions, we have to do. I don’t want to be down on a five-minute major, but I got to respect the official making the call.”
The Buckeyes wasted only seven seconds of the power play as Darik Angeli’s hard slapper from the left point beat Nelson.
With Ferris State nursing a 4-3 lead, Jason Binkley hooked Ohio State’s Max McCormick as McCormick was headed towards the net. The penalty gave Ohio State a 5-on-3 power play for almost two minutes with 4:12 left.
Ohio State could not manage a shot following Angeli’s goal. The lack of execution during the 5-on-3 frustrated Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki.
“We called the timeout and we drew it up how we wanted it,” Osiecki said. “It is not always going to be perfect that way, but we didn’t execute that and that was the only thing that was frustrating about it. I think Ferris did a good job getting in shooting lanes.”
“For Ohio State, you could see they were hungry,” Daniels said. “It was almost like the 5-on-3 brought a sense of urgency back to our game, but that is not a way to go. You won’t win many games if you can’t protect a three-goal lead going into the third.”
Ferris State had no issues on its power plays as the Bulldogs went 3-for-6 for the game. Ohio State, on the other hand, finished 1-for-8.
“It is really interesting how we have started to score on the power play as of late after going an eight- or nine-game stretch where we [had one power-play goal],” Daniels said. “For us to be scoring on the power play has been a relief.”
“We say it all the time; it is a battle of special teams,” Osiecki said. “Our penalty kill has been good. Tonight, it didn’t go our way. We had to spend a lot of energy on that, certainly in the first half of the game.”
The Buckeyes’ offense had struggled only scoring twice in their previous three games before Friday. Oseicki turned to Brady Hjelle in just his third conference start of the season between the pipes.
The Buckeyes’ performance in front of Hjelle was miserable.
For the third consecutive game, Ohio State found itself down 2-0 at the first intermission as Ferris State got goals from Jordan Johnston and Bonis.
Ferris State jumped out to a 4-0 lead with second period goals from Alexander and Chad Billins. The goals chased Hjelle for Cal Heeter, who was pulled in his last start on Sunday against Michigan.
Hjelle allowed four goals on 21 shots, many of which came from point-blank range.
“You have to do things well in front of the goaltenders,” Osiecki said. “Look at three of the four goals. We didn’t give him much help from the defensemen.”
The Buckeyes got on the board 13:20 into the second when Tanner Fritz scored.
Ohio State made it a 4-2 game midway through the third when Crane redirected Justin DaSilva’s shot from the point.
Ohio State hangs onto the top spot in the CCHA. The difference between first-place OSU and eighth-place Lake Superior State is just six points.