If you can eke out a win over the No. 1 team in any sport, you probably had a good day. When you can beat them by four, on their home ice, and put five goals past the team with the national leader in save percentage, I’d have to guess you’d take it.
That’s exactly what No. 6 Ohio State did to No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday evening. Ohio State didn’t trail for a second of this game and put the Irish away fairly early in the third period, en route to the 5-1 victory.
Sean Romeo stopped 39/40 saves on the night, outdoing his opponent, Cale Morris, on the weekend overall. Morris is one of, if not the, best goalies in the country and Romeo’s team allowed two fewer goals than his this weekend on the road. Not bad for a transfer who never played a game in Columbus before this season.
Romeo did allow the game winner on Friday on a deflected shot from the slot that he didn’t seem to see until it was too late. Ohio State would return the favor on Saturday, scoring both of their first two goals off of deflections.
At 8:49 of the first, a Matt Miller shot was deflected past Morris by Matthew Weis to make it 1-0 in favor of OSU. Weis’ tenth of the year would turn out to be the only score of the period, as the Buckeyes outshot the Irish 14-10 in the frame.
The second, at least possession wise, would be more in Notre Dame’s favor as Ohio State took two penalties to the Irish’s one and were outshot 23-11. But the first shot to go in the period was off the stick of OSU’s Matt Joyaux.
On a delayed penalty due to Notre Dame interfering with Brendon Kearney off a breakaway, Ohio State brought on the extra attacker and put the pressure on the Irish. Matt Joyaux found some room at the left point and fired a shot that deflected off a Notre Dame defender and found its way past Morris. Kearney and Luke Stork had the assists on Joyaux’s first of the year.
But at 17:19, just under nine minutes later, Gordi Myer took a slashing penalty and gave Notre Dame their fourth powerplay of the game. Just sixteen seconds in, they converted. Cam Morrison tipped in an Andrew Oglevie shot from the point and suddenly Notre Dame had the momentum and a single goal deficit to overcome.
In the third period, Notre Dame would add seven more shots on goal, but Romeo would stop them all. Notre Dame’s net wasn’t so stingy, however. Ohio State added 13 shots of their own and scored on three of them.
Two odd man rushes within 57 seconds would triple Ohio State’s lead. On the first, Kevin Miller converted on a 2-on-1 to make it 3-1, with assists going to Wyatt Ege and Stork. Fifty-seven seconds later, at 7:53, Sam McCormick would jam one home, with helpers going to John Wiitala and Mason Jobst, to make it 4-1. Miller’s fifth of the year and McCormick’s second all but ended this one.
Notre Dame would pull the goalie late in a desperate attempt to come back, but it’d just lead to an empty netter for Brendon Kearney, getting revenge for being interfered with on a breakaway earlier, even if that did lead to Joyaux’s game winner.
Ohio State would finish off the 5-1 victory and earn the split with the No. 1 team in the nation. If nothing else, OSU proved they belong in the conversation with the very best teams in the entire country. They only lost by a single fluky goal on Friday night and trounced the No. 1 team on Saturday.
Now, they just have to keep the momentum going in order to hold onto the Big Ten No. 2 seed. They remain five points up on Michigan for the spot following the Wolverines’ win over Michigan State. Things don’t get much easier, though, as the Buckeyes travel to No. 12 Minnesota next weekend before hosting No. 17 Wisconsin to end the season. Time to take care of business.