COLUMBUS, Ohio — Despite giving up eight power-play opportunities, the Alaska Nanooks pulled out a hard-fought 1-1 tie on the road against the Ohio State Buckeyes Friday evening, thanks to a 33-save effort by freshman John Keeney.
Ohio State won the post-game shootout, 2-1, in six rounds, with Ryan Dzingel netting the shootout-winner through the five-hole of Keeney. The Buckeyes remain unbeaten in conference play by taking Friday’s contest to a shootout.
Coming off a bye week, the Buckeyes were buoyed by the returns of veteran defenders Devon Krogh and Curtis Gedig, who were both out with injuries two weeks ago against Bowling Green.
“Taking two weeks off from playing games, I think it is always hard to jump start and get back into it,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “That being said, I thought we did a pretty nice job and getting a couple guys in there who haven’t played in a while.”
Both goalies were solid, as Keeney stopped all but one of the 34 shots he faced. Ohio State’s Brady Hjelle was equally up to the challenge, with 34 saves and stopping all but one of the six shots he faced in the shootout.
Having a young squad in front of him, the sight of having Gedig and Krogh back was one that Hjelle was happy to see.
“We have a lot of depth on the team, but it is nice having those guys back on the team,” Hjelle said. “I think they played very well, along with the rest of our defense.”
The Buckeyes spent 19 minutes on the power play, and got 15 shots on goal during the man-advantage. With Ohio State scoreless on the power play, the Buckeyes have not converted in 32 consecutive opportunities this season.
“It is the monkey on your back,” Osiecki said. “We had opportunities and it didn’t happen. We liked certain things that happened on the power play. We had some looks at it, and all of a sudden, it doesn’t bounce your way and you squeeze a bit more.”
On the other hand, a strength for Alaska is its penalty kill. Alaska has killed 89.7 percent of its penalties this year.
“You’re happy in one regard because you’re killing penalties and the guys did a good job of that,” Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson said.
Ferguson would like to see the number of penalties cut down. In the third period, senior forward Andy Taranto committed a pair of penalties in succession nearly 180 feet from his own net that resulted in a double-minor. Later in the third period, Chad Gehon was whistled for a major for checking from behind. Gehon was also handed a game misconduct.
“We’re not going to get a lot of points if you’re going to have to kill of eight penalties every game,” Ferguson said.
With nearly 11 minutes of power play time for the Buckeyes in the third period, the Nanooks’ penalty kill went to work.
After a scoreless first period, the Nanooks got on the board 5:05 into the second as the Buckeyes were killing off a five-on-three penalty. Freshman defender and St. Louis Blues prospect Colton Parayko scored on a give-and-go play to give the Nanooks a 1-0 lead.
“Saw Beck down in the corner so I thought I would give him the puck and I thought I would drive through there,” Parayko said. “When I saw an open space there, he sent me a great pass and I had most of the net.”
After the Nanooks outshot the Buckeyes, 16-10, in the second period, sophomore forward Max McCormick fired a wrister over Keeney’s shoulder to tie the game at one 15 seconds into the third. The goal stopped the Nanooks’ momentum.
However, with nearly 11 minutes of power-play time for the Buckeyes after McCormick’s goal, Keeney was forced to step up for the Nanooks.
“He has only played in one game this year and we wanted to give him another opportunity,” Ferguson said. “When you’re killing penalties, I mean they had 15 shots on the power play, your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer, and I thought he did a good job for us.”