It’s hard to be upset about a one goal loss on the road to the No. 1 team, but boy did it feel like the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes had something to prove going into this one.
Despite losing 6-3 to Michigan State last Saturday, Ohio State came in winners of eight out of 10 since the winter break and 10 of their 12 twelve overall. This was their first real test against tippy-top national competition since sweeping Minnesota in early December. Plus there was the sweep No. 1 Notre Dame handed to the Buckeyes the first weekend of November.
The Buckeyes had a national showcase on NBCSN with the Olympic Opening Ceremony serving as NBC’s only major Olympic coverage on the night. National brand and No. 1 Notre Dame hosting the upstart Buckeyes on national television. Maybe they can get revenge on NBCSports.com tomorrow night.
It was a low scoring affair with plenty of action, however, and Ohio State coming achingly close to tying it up in the waning minutes of Friday night’s affair. But no matter how close they got with the extra attacker and on the powerplay in the final minutes, Cale Morris was in the way.
The Irish goalie outdueled Sean Romeo by stopping 31/32 shots on net to Romeo’s 27/29 and shutting Ohio State out for the last 33:08 of the game. This was even despite Ohio State, with their 23.5 percent power play, having five power play opportunities on the night. They’d convert one in the second period, but that’d be it. They’d have two in the third period alone but convert on neither.
Ohio State, on the other hand, didn’t exactly do a great of staying out of the box themselves. They took seven penalties themselves and, even with a 90.4 percent success rate on the penalty kill, taking penalties against the No. 1 team in the nation is probably not the best way to beat them. Especially when you lead for exactly zero seconds in this game.
Andrew Oglevie scored Notre Dame’s first goal at 12:49 of the first, from Dylan Malmquist and Cal Burke, and that’d be the only tally in the first period. Malmquist hit Oglevie on a cross ice pass as no Ohio State defender covered the cross ice pass for whatever reason and just like that, Notre Dame was up one.
OSU outshot the Irish 10-7 in the first period, but when the other team scores halfway through and takes a lead, 10-7 is probably what should happen if you’re the No. 6 team. Notre Dame isn’t a team known for pushing the play as they’ll sit back and let Morris keep them in front. And he did just that, at least for awhile.
In the second, on the powerplay, Ohio State would finally get on the board. Kevin Miller scored on the powerplay after Mike O’Leary took a high sticking penalty to give OSU the man advantage. John Wiitala and Gordi Myer had the helpers on Miller’s fourth of the year at 6:52.
Notre Dame, unfortunately, would answer back just 2:44 later on a fluky shot Romeo probably saves 99/100 times. Jordan Gross scored on a fluky shot in the slot that looked like he was just firing on net. Romeo looked like hey may have been screened as two skaters crossed his eye line simultaneous with the shot. It also may have been deflected by a pressuring OSU defender. Either way, it found its way in. And that fluke would be the difference.
Ohio State would put pressure on Notre Dame late in the third with a powerplay after Jake Evans took a boarding call with 6:46 left in the game. They’d kill that off despite OSU pressure and continued to hold Ohio State out from many golden opportunities after Romeo was sent off for the extra attacker.
Cale Morris made some big saves on what did get through to him and shut the door on the 2-1 victory and Big Ten regular season championship. Not a bad accomplishment for the first year in the conference.
Ohio State came into tonight with a six-point lead on third place Wisconsin for second place, as they take on Minnesota this weekend. If those two teams split and Ohio State gets nothing out of Saturday’s rematch with the Irish, they’ll still be up three points headed into the last two weekend series with Minnesota and Wisconsin. Not a bad place to be in, all things considered.
But Ohio State will look to prevent that and at least salvage a point tomorrow as they once again play at No. 1 Notre Dame. The Buckeyes outshot them and lost on a fluky goal. There’s no reason they can’t do better than a single point tomorrow night.