This was a game where Ohio State was leading by three goals, four goals and almost lost in regulation. And yet, they found a way to pull out a victory and weekend sweep over No. 6 Michigan with the 6-5 victory at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. To describe this game as a seesaw probably wouldn't be fair as it only went up and down twice, with Ohio State gaining the first advantage and then Michigan taking it all the way to the second Ohio State's Nick Schilkey put home the game winner in overtime.
It was a bizarre game featuring the backup goalie, a disallowed high stick goal, a huge blown lead and the No. 6 team being swept by unranked Ohio State. But hey, a win's a win and Ohio State's young guns keep going and have shown, with the right breaks and consistent goaltending, they could make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.
Things started out as well as they possibly could for Ohio State, beyond any comprehensible reason really. Dakota Joshua kept his hot streak alive with a goal just over 11 minutes into the first. Brendon Kearney would score in his second straight game just over five minutes later and Nick Schilkey scored his team leading 18th of the year just 25 seconds after Kearney struck. The Bucks took that 3-0 lead into the dressing room at the end of the first while doubling up the shot total on Michigan, 10-5. I'd say that was quality work.
The Wolverines would get closer in the second, but it still looked like the Bucks had things well in hand. Zach Werenski scored at 5:59 of the second to make narrow it to a 3-1 OSU lead but Mason Jobst scored to restore the three goal lead at 10:14. Craig Dalrymple made it a 5-1 OSU lead at 13:11 and this looked more like a Buckeye win coronation than a competition at this point. Then pretty much nothing went right for the rest of the game.
Boo Nieves and Tony Calderone scored Michigan goals within 24 seconds of each other in the last minute of the second and suddenly OSU's lead was down to two going into the second intermission. Still a sizable lead, but one that went from beating-caliber to solid difference but nothing more.
OSU would almost put another goal on the board about four minutes into the third, but rang it off the pipe. That'd be big later when Michigan tied the game up in the third on goals from Werenski and Cooper Marody. Marody put on in off a rebound of a Justin Selman shot to tie the game at five. Michigan looked like they took the lead later in the third with 2:04 left as Selman looked to tip in a Sam Piazza shot, but after review, the referees held up the initial ruling on the ice of no goal due to a high stick playing the puck on the tip.
Ohio State would get another chance to salt this one away after Alex Kile of Michigan was called for charging with 1:47 left, but the Bucks were unable to convert on the powerplay. So the game went to overtime where Michigan, with all the momentum in the last half the game, looked like overwhelming favorites to steal Ohio State's showcase game at Nationwide Arena.
Nick Schilkey was not okay with this. After an initial save by Steve Racine, Schilkey put home the rebound to give Ohio State the 6-5 overtime victory. Somehow, after blowing a 5-1 second period lead, the Bucks found it within them in overtime to put home a game winner and come out of a weekend series with the No. 6 team in the nation with a sweep.
Matt Tomkins wasn't very good, but that was expected as he came in with a .892 save percentage and 3.79 goals against average, but he kept the Wolverines out of the net after they tied it. That was more than you could have asked for after he was a trainwreck in most of the second and third periods. Christian Frey has been struggling lately, but if Tomkins keeps putting forth efforts like this, allowing four goals in a 15:53 timespan, Frey can do whatever he wants short of trading an autograph for a tattoo and he'll be the starting goalie.
The Buckeyes showed they can compete with anyone in the conference and not only squeeze out the random win, but take it to them multiple times in a row. That kind of outcome would be pretty nice in a conference tournament scenario where Ohio State will have to do it three times in a row to win the Big Ten crown. But after this weekend, with the starting goalie in, there's no reason why it can't be done.
The Bucks will close out the regular season with a weekend series next Friday and Saturday at Michigan State, with the conference tournament beginning on March 17th in St. Paul, MN.