Ohio State, Michigan State finally find an overtime that separates them

Ohio State’s Anthony Greco tumbles over Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand in overtime on Thursday. The Buckeyes’ Drew Brevig scored seconds later (photo: Jim Rosvold).

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ohio State and Michigan State found themselves in a very familiar situation on Thursday night — overtime.

The Buckeyes downed the Spartans thanks to a goal by Drew Brevig 4:23 into the extra session of their first-round Big Ten tournament game.

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“I don’t know if you guys expected anything different between these two teams,” Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. “We just knew that there wasn’t going to be a shootout tonight — that was the only difference.”

It was the fourth straight time that a contest between the teams went to overtime; the previous three had been decided in shootouts.

Though Ohio State’s offensive is more potent, the Spartans defense, particularly their shot blocking, has kept these games close.

“You saw the will they have to block shots,” Rohlik said. “I talked to our guys about it, there’s no fear. I give lots of credit to coach [Tom] Anastos: They buy in and they’ll do whatever it takes. That’s a team effort and they have a great goaltender and they have everybody that’s out on the ice buying in.”

According to Anastos, the similarities between the two squads have also led to the close games.

“The goaltending has been really similar,” Anastos said. “Both teams play hard. I think they have some offensive experience on their team that we just don’t have right now. But both teams play hard, and after a tough first period for them they really bounced back and played in our end during the second, third and overtime.”

That lack of offensive experience has been a problem for Michigan State all season.

“Tonight’s game, for us, really epitomized our season. We just struggled to score goals,” Anastos said. “When we’re scoring three or four goals, it gives us a chance to win, rather than that chance tonight.”

Ohio State, which will play Minnesota in a semifinal game at 7 p.m. CDT Friday, finished fourth in the Big Ten standings this season; Michigan State was right on its heels in fifth.

Those regular season finishes meant that both teams entered the Big Ten tournament needing to win the championship to advance to the NCAA tournament.

“I thought there was a desperation,” Anastos said. “I thought the effort was really good. I didn’t think we had a lot of really great performances tonight, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.”