Ohio State tends to play down to its opponents and they continued to do that on Thursday, but found a way to defeat Michigan State in overtime to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Freshman Mason Jobst put home a goal in overtime to lift the Buckeyes to the final four of the conference and keep their slim hopes of a conference title alive. OSU advances to take on top seeded Minnesota on Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, making it essentially a home game for the Gophers.
The Buckeyes got off to a fast start on Thursday before giving the Spartans every chance to get back in it and steal the victory. John Wiitala scored just 38 seconds into the first period for his 11th of the season, with helpers going to Jobst and David Gust. Things would stay that way for a majority of the first before Tommy Parran scored just his second goal of the year to increase the Buckeye lead to 2-0. Josh Healey and Kevin Miller recorded assists on the goal that looked like it could be the one to all but put away the Spartans early.
Ohio State led in shots by an outrageous 19-4 margin in the first. MSU looked to be lucky to even be on the same ice as Ohio State, much less be down by only two goals.
Michigan State did not agree with this assessment, however, as they would score all three goals in the second period to look like they were putting the Bucks away. All three came on the powerplay, first from Joe Cox at 5:15, then Matt DeBlouw at 8:24 and then finally from Michael Ferrantino at 11:31. Within just over six minutes, the Buckeyes went from having a 2-0 lead to being down a goal and not being able to answer for the rest of the period. The Spartans took that 3-2 lead into the second intermission and looked like they now had all the momentum and their foot on the throat of OSU.
OSU actually outshot MSU 11-9 in the period, but when a team has that much powerplay time, as MSU actually had 4 powerplays in the period, there isn't much a gross shot total is going to tell you. The Bucks just had a chance to put Michigan State away but took too many penalties and essentially handed the Spartans a golden opportunity to get back in it, which they gladly capitalized on.
Matt Weis did his best to take the momentum back for the Buckeyes just 3:17 into the third as he tied it up with assists from Drew Brevig and Josh Healey on his 11th of the year. Michigan State outshot the Buckeyes in the third, 14-12, but couldn't put one past Christian Frey, who didn't relent a single goal at even strength in this one.
Michigan State would outshoot the Buckeyes, 7-6, in the overtime period and looked to at least be playing even with OSU aside from the disastrous first period. They would continue to be unable to score on Frey at even strength, however, and wouldn't be able to gain a powerplay opportunity in the extra frame. They went 0-2 in the first and 0-1 in the third on the man advantage, with the second period reaping enough rewards to make up for the other two frames.
Ohio State would capitalize on one of their chances, however, as Jobst scored with the lone helper going to Craig Dalrymple. The super freshman's 12th of the year sends the Buckeyes to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament with Minnesota once again awaiting the Bucks. The Gophers sent OSU home last year after the Buckeyes upset them two years ago in a nearly-tourney stealing effort from Frey.
The Buckeyes hope to relive the latter scenario as the two teams play on Friday night in Saint Paul at 8:30 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. Minnesota won all four matchups between the two teams this season. Three of the four OSU losses came in overtime, so the Bucks will have to hope that in a fifth matchup, they can get one more puck to bounce their way.