COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a fitting end to CCHA play Sunday evening.
With the final CCHA game to ever be played in Columbus, a spot in the CCHA semifinals was on the line inside the historic OSU Ice Rink.
After two hard-fought periods, Ohio State’s Anthony Greco scored for the Buckeyes 3:33 into the third to clinch the squad’s first berth since 2005 into the semifinals as No. 4 seed Ohio State downed No. 5 seed Ferris State 3-2 in Game 3 of the quarterfinal round of the CCHA playoffs.
“Huge step for our program, haven’t been there in a while,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “This team is awfully young and we’re still learning how to play big games, how to close out weekends, how to win in general, especially playing a team like Ferris.”
Playing in Joe Louis Arena next weekend is not an unfamiliar one for Greco. He has played in the arena before, as a member of the Long Island Royals Pee Wee team.
“I have yet to be up there in an atmosphere like that, but I have watched on TV a few times and it seems like a pretty fun place to be,” Greco said.
Greco was a healthy scratch in Game 1 of the series. He went from on the bench to scoring the game-winning goal, a whirlwind weekend by anyone’s standards.
“It was a good feeling,” said Greco. “I just came in yesterday and play as hard as I can and skate as fast as I can.”
All three games this weekend came down to either one goal or an empty-netter. Osiecki said that he will give his players a day off, but will need to come back Tuesday ready for the task of winning two games in Detroit.
The Buckeyes, one of two remaining charter members of the CCHA, will play Saturday afternoon against No. 2-seed Notre Dame.
“We turn the page now and get ready,” Osiecki said. “It is all about twos. It is pretty interesting that playoff time is always about two-game segments and you have to find a way to win two games back-to-back no matter how it is done.”
Ferris State’s season comes to an end after a 16-16-5 season. The next time the Bulldogs are on the ice, they will do as members of the WCHA in the fall.
Bob Daniels has spent 21 years behind the bench for the Bulldogs and felt sentimental about saying goodbye to the league.
“Regarding the CCHA, being in it for 25 years, it bothers me, I am disappointed,” Daniels said. “It is a heck of a conference and really enjoyed it. I think back to the days when we played Jerry Welsh here and I was involved in that. It has been a great rivalry and a lot of great games. Kind of fitting, at least for us, that it took place in the old arena here.”
In the winning effort, Brady Hjelle marked a personal best with a 47-save effort against the Bulldogs.
“This was the most exciting [performance of the year] by far,” Hjelle said. “A lot on the line and our team came to play tonight and we’re going to the Joe, so we’re really excited about it.”
Ohio State got two power-play goals in the first period from Max McCormick, who scored 1:32 into the period, and Curtis Gedig, who did so 18:50 into the stanza. In between their goals, Andy Huff and Cory Kane scored for Ferris State to briefly give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
With the game tied in the second period, Ferris State put together a dominating performance outshooting Ohio State 21-9 in the period. Hjelle stood tall stopping all 21 opportunities by the Bulldogs. Hjelle said that he was tired after the second, but that the team did a god job keeping shots on the outside.
“My one worry coming out of the second was we did have a lot of chances,” Daniels said. “Sometimes when that happens, you gamble more and more and you think, ‘Things are going our way and we’re getting a lot of chances, let’s gamble a little more.’ We wanted to make sure that didn’t happen in the third, but it did.”
After Greco’s goal, Ohio State did a solid job keeping Ferris State out of its attacking zone. The Bulldogs managed a few chances late in the period in the mad rush in the final minute of the game, but once again, Hjelle stood tall.
“I thought [Ferris State] played for their lives, but knowing how to win,” Osiecki said. “Our guys found a way to battle and stuck with it. It wasn’t pretty, but we battled and you can’t be more proud of the way the guys worked.”