COLUMBUS, Ohio — Friday’s battle between Ohio State and No. 6 Western Michigan was a contest between two of the CCHA’s top three defensive squads.
The game went as advertised.
The Buckeyes and Broncos battled to a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of 3,885 in Value City Arena. Ohio State is 4-1-2 in its last seven; Western Michigan is 5-1-2 in its last eight.
Western Michigan sophomore defender Matt Stewart scored his first collegiate goal to force the tie.
“We knew it would be tight [and] space would be tough to come by,” Western Michigan coach Andy Murray said. “In our case, we tried to play defense by having the puck a lot. I thought out puck possession was great tonight, but they had some great shifts in our zone, too. It was that kind of game where you needed the all-in mentality.”
The Broncos were awarded an extra conference point by winning a four-round shootout 2-1. The single conference point put Ohio State in a tie for fourth place with Ferris State.
“They play smart,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said about the Broncos. “Andy has been around the block [and] he is obviously a quality hockey coach. Their team plays extremely smart, they are going to be patient, they play sound defensively, sound positional. They look to capitalize or a missed opportunity for us and they really jump the other way.”
Both squads had to battle for their goal.
Ohio State’s Tyler Lundey scored his fourth of the season capitalizing off a perfect bounce off the end boards. Lundey was on the doorstep after Max McCormick’s shot fired just wide of the net of Frank Slubowski. The goal gave the Buckeyes a 1-0 advantage 5:57 into the second.
“You have an awareness of what kind of bounces you get the wall,” Osiecki said.
“I kind of knew that the puck was going to be going towards the net at that point and thankfully, the boards made a good play,” Lundey said.
Stewart scored the game-tying goal 14:06 into the second as his simple wrister beat the blocker of Ohio State goalie Brady Hjelle.
Shots were 17-15 in favor of the Broncos through two periods.
“I was creeping in down the middle and [Mike] Leone was creeping around the net,” Stewart said. “He got it into the slot to me and I put it home.”
Ohio State had a bit of jump coming out of the second intermission.
Lundey nearly scored his second of the game before Slubowski batted his shot away from the net.
Murray’s squad was hemmed into Ohio State’s offensive zone to start the period and he called a timeout 4:29 into the third allowing him to make a line change off of an icing.
The timeout paid off.
The Broncos held the Buckeyes to just a pair of shots in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Ohio State was on a furious penalty kill after Chad Niddey was whistled for tripping with 8:05 left in regulation. The Buckeyes were battling broken sticks before finally clearing the puck after being stuck in their own zone for the first 1:45 of the penalty kill.
“We had a couple of power-play opportunities by working and keeping our feet moving,” Murray said. “We are a team that likes to have the puck and play puck possession. When you have the puck, it makes it difficult for the other team to have offense and generate shots.”
Western Michigan had five power-play chances whereas Ohio State had four. Neither team capitalized off the man-advantage.