When your team has been up and down to the point of not winning two in a row since before Thanksgiving, playing host to a 7-16-1 team is never a bad thing. No. 10 Ohio State took full advantage on Friday night in Columbus and blew Arizona State right out of the building in the first period.
The tenth ranked Buckeyes improved to 11-4-4 on the year and look like they’re successfully fine tuning their games with another weekend showdown with No. 4 Penn State coming up on January 20th and 21st, this time in Happy Valley. OSU will get another tune up for that Big Ten matchup on Saturday afternoon as they host Arizona State at 2pm in Columbus.
Friday night’s series opener was nearly over as soon as it started. The Buckeyes scored four times in the first 10:03 of the game and wiped away any realistic chance of an upset. Christian Frey had 35 saves in this one and continued to strengthen his stranglehold on the starting job that it looked like he was on his way to losing before last weekend’s heroics versus Penn State.
David Gust got things started at 4:58 of the first period with his twelfth of the year, with assists from Luke Stork and Tanner Laczynski, in his return game back from Team USA’s gold medal winning performances at the World Junior Championship. Nick Schilkey and Miguel Fidler then both scored on the powerplay within 53 seconds of each other, with Schilkey’s 16th of the year coming at 6:59 and Fidler’s second at 7:52.
The Buckeyes then added a fourth goal in the period as Kevin Miller scored his fourth of the year at 10:03. OSU scored four times in a 5:05 span of the first period. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing: that’s impressive. They chased ASU’s starter, Ryland Pashovitz, after Fidler’s goal and still promptly scored on his backup, Joey Daccord within minutes of his entering.
Ohio State outshot the Sun Devils 16-7 in that first period despite gaining such a lead so early. The Buckeyes continued attacking, something they did not do much of against Penn State once they had a lead, so while it’s a good sign, you still have to hope that mentality shows up against the more challenging opposition.
Daccord would keep Arizona State from completely embarrassing themselves, as he stopped 20 out of 23 shots on the night during his two-plus period outing, including 15 out of 17 in the second and third periods. Not Dominik Hasek, but Arizona State was not exactly the 80s Oilers in front of him either.
ASU ended Frey’s shutout bid at 8:28 of the second on the powerplay, as Brinson Pasichnuk (yes, that’s a real name) scored his sixth of the year to make it 4-1. Schilkey didn’t enjoy that too much as he scored his second of the game and 17th of the season at 15:51 of the middle frame. Ohio State converted on their first three powerplays of the game while Arizona State was just one of five converting on the man advantage.
The game wouldn’t get any closer in the third. Ronnie Hein scored his fifth of the year to make it 6-1, with Freddy Gerard and Gordi Myer gaining the assist markers, and Christian Frey stopped all 12 shots aimed on net.
Ohio State ran over a team they should have run over and did it convincingly in that first period. They attacked and kept attacking in that period. But in the second and third, they gave up 29 shots combined while only firing 17 on net themselves. That’s maybe acceptable against a shot attempting juggernaut like Penn State, but against middling Arizona State, it’s not acceptable.
The Buckeyes have to stop sinking into a shell when they get a lead, even if it’s against a team like this they can still gain the win in easily. Against Big Ten teams, if you give them that number of opportunities to come back, no matter the lead, you’ll get burnt.