COLUMBUS, Ohio — A dominating first period paced the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 2-0 home victory over the No. 19 Northern Michigan Wildcats Friday evening, as Buckeyes goalie Brady Hjelle had a 20-save shutout.
Ohio State, coming off a weekend series where it lost two freshman skaters due to injuries, improves to 3-3-3 overall and 2-1-2-1 in conference. Northern Michigan falls to 4-5-2 overall and 1-4-2-0 in CCHA play.
In three conference contests, Hjelle posted his second shutout and has a whopping .988 save percentage in conference play.
“I think our guys did a great job in front of him,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “I don’t think it is Brady. He looks comfortable, he looks calm and he looks good with the puck but again, he didn’t have to make a lot of tough saves.”
Hjelle only saw one shot in the game’s first 23 minutes.
“It is definitely tough because you get bored and you have to stay focused on the game because you never know what can happen,” Hjelle said. “I think (NMU) had bus legs and we were ready to play.”
After losing freshmen forward Anthony Greco last Friday and defender Sam Jardine Saturday, the Buckeyes suffered another injury just 54 seconds into Friday’s contest. Junior forward Alex Lippincott was drilled into the boards by Northern Michigan’s leading scorer and the nation’s leader in assists, Matt Thurber. The penalty resulted in a game misconduct and a major penalty.
“If I say what I think, I’ll get fined,” Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle said about the penalty call.
Northern Michigan was already skating without its third-leading scorer, Reed Seckel. The loss of both Thurber and Seckel proved to be too much for the Wildcats early on. Ohio State outshot Northern Michigan, 19-1, in the first period, but goalie Jared Coreau kept the Wildcats in the game by only allowing one goal.
“The first period, we were awful,” Kyle said. “We have not been a good Friday night team. We had to play our top guys early in the major, and I think we got shook and we weren’t very good in the first.”
The eventual game-winner left Coreau high and dry, as Northern Michigan defender Ryan Trenz turned the puck over in his own zone to Ohio State’s Ryan Dzingel. Dzingel faked a shot, but instead found Travis Statchuk, who buried the puck into a wide-open net 8:56 into the first.
“One of our players said as we were walking out of the locker room in the first period ‘That is Buckeye hockey,’” Osiecki said. “Some of the things we were doing were things we have been talking about for three years.”
After Ohio State took a 25-1 shot advantage early in the second, Kyle Follmer nearly gave the Wildcats the equalizer 2:52 into the period as Hjelle was forced to block Follmer’s shot, which glanced off the post on its way to the end boards.
In a scoreless second period, Northern Michigan outshot Ohio State, 11-8, but Kyle did not like how his team performed.
“I think we held the fort because Jared was able to hold the fort,” Kyle said.
After spending the majority of the game with a one-goal advantage, the Buckeyes finally grabbed a two-goal lead 11:53 into the third. Dzingel got his second assist of the contest as he found Tanner Fritz behind the net. Fritz’s centering feed found Max McCormick in the slot, who beat the glove of Coreau.
“We were in the game, but we could have played until tomorrow and not scored with some of those guys,” Kyle said.
Lippincott’s status is unknown, as he did not return after he left in the first minute of Friday’s game.
“Tough hit, as that is a point of emphasis in our league and sport in general with contact to the head, that is a tough one to absorb,” Osiecki said.