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No. 14 Ohio State hockey triumphs over Michigan State, 3-2

John Wiitala’s third period goal clinches the game for the Buckeyes

Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Semifinals Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Ohio State split its last two series with Michigan and Minnesota because they got poor goaltending. In a magical turn of events, a goalie finally showed up and Ohio State got a win they probably didn’t deserve as they took down Michigan State by a score of 3-2 on Friday night.

The yoyo-ing of Christian Frey and Matt Tomkins may take a break for at least one weekend as Frey delivered almost singlehandedly the win on Friday night in East Lansing. MSU came in just 6-17-3, but outshot OSU 35-26 overall. Ohio State did what Ohio State generally does, however, and convert on a ridiculously high percentage of its shots and still found a way to win in the end.

This was the first time since January 28th that Ohio State allowed less than four goals in a game, a remarkable stat even in college hockey. Allowing 4+ goals to Minnesota, a top five caliber team, isn’t anything to feel bad about, but when Michigan having an awful year does it too and it costs you a sweep there, it doesn’t feel too fantastic.

This one sure looked like it was heading down that shootout path you shouldn’t be in against this poor of a team early, as both teams would score two goals apiece in the first period.

Dakota Joshua scored his ninth of the year at 10:25 of the first to give OSU the lead. He took the puck from behind the net and stuffed it in on his backhand to put Ohio State up 1-0. Janik Moser had the lone assist.

Brennan Sanford would tie it up for Michigan State just 1:41 later off a rebound and suddenly it was tied again. Tanner Laczynski missed the halcyon days of that lead and put OSU back up again, this time 2-1, as he sniped his ninth of the year from the faceoff circle. Matt Miller had the lone assist.

But the Buckeyes would surrender the lead once again, with just 20.7 seconds left in the first period. Villiam Haag, who surprisingly isn’t a field marshal from World War I, tied it up on the powerplay after John Wiitala was sent off for tripping at 18:11.

Like pretty much all Ohio State games in February 2017, this one looked like it’d be the first to five goals would win. And then it all stopped and looked like an NHL game where no scoring happens for half the game at a time.

Nobody would score in the entirety of the second period despite three penalties on each team, including an embellishment call on Sanford that nullified Laczynski’s interference penalty. Ohio State had two powerplay chances in the period and MSU had one of its own, but the score stayed 2-2 at the end of two.

Ohio State was outshot 13-7 in the second despite having more powerplays than MSU, but they survived the period thanks to the newly awoken Frey and lived to give Wiitala a chance in the third.

Wiitala deflected Laczynski’s shot from the left faceoff circle past MSU goalie John Lethemon to score what would turn out to be the game winner. Matt Miller had the secondary assist, for his first two point game as a Buckeye.

The game wasn’t over yet, however. MSU looked to tie it before a goal was called off on the ice for a high stick with just 4:47 left in the third. The no goal call was upheld on review and Frey wouldn’t allow another, as Ohio State found a way to hang on for the 3-2 victory.

OSU held the Spartans to just six shots in the third, despite Wiitala scoring at 1:44 of the period, giving MSU ample time to stage a comeback. The Spartans were stymied from there and couldn’t find a way to get anything past (legally at least).

If Christian Frey could save that high a percentage of shots every night, Ohio State would be able to make a serious Big Ten and NCAA tournament run this season. It’s extremely hard to win with the goaltending playing as poorly as it has lately, but if they can get even a fraction of this performance, who knows how far OSU can go.

The two teams will faceoff once again on Saturday night in East Lansing at 7:05pm as Ohio State hopes to get its first sweep since January 20-21 over Penn State.