ST. PAUL, Minn. — The last time Drew Brevig and the Ohio State Buckeyes played hockey games in the state of Minnesota, OSU headed back to Columbus with a pair of losses.
This time around, it was a much better homecoming for Brevig, a Lakeville, Minn., native, whose overtime goal gave Ohio State a 2-1 win over Michigan State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.
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The game marked the fourth straight contest between the Buckeyes and Spartans that went to overtime.
“We just knew there wasn’t gonna be no shootout tonight,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “That was the only difference. Two good hockey teams, two great goaltenders, just not a lot of difference.”
The win sends the Buckeyes on to face the top-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday.
Michigan State actually struck first, with Greg Wolfe scoring 4 minutes, 4 seconds into the game. Tanner Fritz evened the game up on a third-chance rebound at the 16:26 mark in the second.
While Ohio State outscored Michigan State 7-1 in the third period in their four regular season contests, this game, like the three prior, went to an extra period.
Unlike the previous Big Ten tournament game at the Xcel on Thursday, this one needed only 4:23 of overtime before Brevig gave the fourth-seeded Buckeyes the win.
Ohio State got the puck into the Michigan State zone, and forward Anthony Greco ended up leapfrogging Spartans goaltender Jake Hildebrand, causing the goalie to lose his stick.
The puck came around to Brevig in the right circle four seconds later, and after three Spartans players collided trying to block the shot, Brevig was able to find space and fire a shot past Hildebrand for the winning score.
“Fritzy made a great play there. I think he brought some guys with him,” Brevig said. “I think they had a little chaos out front. I think the puck had eyes there and found its way through.”
The scramble by the Spartans to block the shot looked to give Brevig a better lane to shoot through.
“Guys were laying it out,” Spartans coach Tom Anastos said. “We made it very difficult all night to get shots through, really. We just got caught out there in a long shift. Guys were tired. I think they were in the midst of a change to get fresh people out. That was a mad scramble; that’s how sometimes goals go in.”
While Ohio State found its legs in the second period, Michigan State controlled the first period while taking a 1-0 lead on Wolfe’s goal.
“Well, we couldn’t punt,” Rohlik joked in talking about the first period. “Frustrated. And again, as a head coach, you start to think about all the things you do to try and prepare guys for this. But ultimately, I think our guys were on a big stage, and they played like it. For some reason, they played tentative.”
Two penalties by MSU in the first seemed to give OSU some cohesion, and the Buckeyes outshot the Spartans the rest of the way.
“I think we took a couple penalties toward the end, and that really got their game going for them,” Wolfe said.
Although Ohio State went 0-for-4 on the power play, Anastos said Michigan State still suffered as a result of going on the penalty kill.
“I did think though, what happened during the course of the game was, when we got a couple penalties — and our penalty killing was pretty darn good tonight — it takes you out of rhythm, and it uses a lot of energy from some key guys,” Anastos said.
Michigan State went 0-for-2 on the man advantage, including one in the last couple minutes of regulation.
The game, true to form — Ohio State won the first meeting, which was followed by shootouts in the next three games — was tightly contested after the first period.
“[We] just started playing our game,” Fritz said. “We were a little bit nervous at the start, a little tentative. I just think we started to get our legs moving, push the pace on them, get pucks deep and really pressure their defense.”
The Buckeyes take on the Gophers at 7 p.m. CDT Friday in the second semifinal. Ohio State was 0-3-1 with a shootout win against Minnesota in the regular season.
The Spartans ended their season with an 11-18-7 mark, and Anastos said it was a disappointing finish for a resilient group.
“But yeah, more than anything else, I was hoping that they could have some season-ending success right here,” he said.