Ohio State came into this weekend needing to likely sweep Michigan State to have any decently sized margin of error at Wisconsin and in the Big Ten Tournament to receive an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Whoops!
The Buckeyes at large bid hopes are now on thin ice (heh) as they fell to Michigan State, who improved to 7-21-3. Yes, that is their record and they went up 4-0 in the first period on a team with national aspirations. I’d, uh, forget about those for now.
OSU falls to 17-10-6, and more disturbingly, just 8-8-1-1 in the Big Ten, not exactly one of the titans of the nation. Penn State and Minnesota look like tournament teams, but Michigan and Michigan State have both frankly been horrible this year and should have provided enough wins for OSU to have a better record than that. Whoops again!
This one started out horribly and the Buckeyes would never tie it again after Michigan State went up. Between 6:44 and 17:29 of the first, Logan Lambdin, Thomas Ebbing, Cody Milan and Sam Saliba all scored for the Spartans and chased Christian Frey, who stopped just 11 of 15 shots on net. Matt Tomkins would come in and only allow one goal on 18 shots, but that one would prove to be the game winner.
Michigan State outshot Ohio State 15-9 in the first, showing who came out attacking and ready to use their talent to its offensive potential. As has been a problem all year for Ohio State, they played too conservatively and it caused them to get blitzkrieged right out of this one.
Stopping a few shots would’ve helped as well, of course, but Ohio State didn’t exactly help themselves out to start in front of Frey. Nick Schilkey scored his 25th, on the powerplay, just 2:15 into the second, but Lambdin scored again to make it 5-1 just 5:10 later to fire back. Kevin Miller and Mason Jobst then added two more Ohio State goals at 10:02 and 13:19, and suddenly OSU had life.
They still did not generate more shots than Michigan State in the second, with both teams at 11 each, and then, even in desperation, only outshot MSU 10-7 in the third down two goals. Remarkably, despite being down four goals not even a period into the game, the No. 13 team in the country (for now, at least) was outshot for the entire game by a team that came in 6-21. That’s unacceptable and just not a modern way of playing hockey.
Any statistic you look at shows you your goal differential increases as you generate more shots and attack, and focus on offense. Ohio State has not exactly embraced that despite being the exact kind of team that should. They have shaky goaltending and defense, but fantastic forwards and scoring in general. They should be playing to that strength, but they don’t. Who knows why, but they don’t.
David Gust would score to make it a one goal game in the third, at 15:43, on the powerplay, but that’d be all OSU would get.
Nick Schilkey has 25 goals and Mason Jobst is the first Buckeye with 30 assists since 2005, but it’ll all be for naught if they don’t pick up the slack and beat a team on Saturday that they should have already beaten once this weekend. If they lose tomorrow, on Senior Night, to Michigan State again, you can kiss any hope of an at large NCAA bid good bye if you aren’t already.