The No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t exactly dominate Michigan State on Friday night in Columbus, but they came out on top with the 4-2 victory over their conference rival. OSU improves to 11-5-1 in conference play and continues to cement their second place position in the Big Ten conference.
Ohio State has now won 10 out of their last 11 and four in a row, continuing to crash the party of college hockey bluebloods. Notre Dame still stands as the titans of the conference and prohibitive Big Ten tournament favorites, but you really can’t count out the Buckeyes if they keep playing like this.
The Buckeyes scored at 4:06 of the first period and led for the rest of the game, but it was never easy. They just couldn’t pull away from a pesky Michigan State team. They may have come in at 3-12-1-1 in conference, but you still have to go and beat them. The Spartans made it tough, but they just didn’t have enough to catch up with the Buckeyes.
Ronnie Hein, who’s really come on of late, scored the aforementioned goal at 4:06 of the first, with assists from Mason Jobst and Wyatt Ege. Jobst flicked a shot towards the net from the point on the power play, where it found Hein’s stick on the doorstep. He found a way to slide it past John Lethemon in net for MSU, and it was 1-0.
WATCH: Ronnie Hein opened the scoring with a power play goal in the first period. pic.twitter.com/2fSsa8wqn7— Ohio State M Hockey (@OhioState_MHKY) February 3, 2018
Freddy Gerard would score just 2:06 later to double up the Buckeye lead. OSU went in on a 3-on-2 and Gerard faked the shot until he froze Lethemon in net and fired it past him from the right faceoff circle. Matthew Weis and Ege had the assists.
That’d be it for scoring in the first, but the Spartans wouldn’t surrender that easily. Logan Lambdin halved the OSU lead at 11:39 of the second. The officials reviewed the call but upheld it and the Ohio State lead was just one.
That’d last throughout the rest of the second and into the third, and Ohio State didn’t do themselves any favors in trying to change that. They had only 11 total shots on goal through the first two periods to MSU’s 14—allowing the Spartans to dictate play. Sure, OSU went up early and had a lead of some sort for nearly the last 56 minutes of play, but you’d still hope for more than 11 shots.
High event hockey favors the team with more talent, as the events will presumably regress closer to the mean as you have more of them, but Ohio State seemed content to sit on their lead and capitalize where they could. Credit where it’s due, they did pull it out and never allowed the Spartans to tie it up.
In the third, they’d add what turned out to be a key insurance goal, as Dakota Joshua made it 3-1 at 6:49 of the third, on a shortside tally with assists to Sasha Larocque and Sean Romeo of all people. Romeo stopped 25/27 shots in net and had the secondary assist on what turned out to be the game winning goal.
It turned out to be that because Michigan State would again pull within one at 12:21 of the third on a goal by Zach Osburn. That’d be as close as they got, however, as they’d have to pull the goalie and hope the man advantage tied it up.
Joshua added his second of the period, in the open net, at 19:19, with assists going to Weis and Tanner Laczynski, who extended his point streak to 11 games, and that was that. Romeo held on and Ohio State got out of there with the win.
Lethemon only made 17 saves in net for the Spartans, while allowing three, which certainly makes it easier when you don’t pepper the goalie with many shots on goal.
We’ll see if Ohio State can do that on Saturday night when they again host the Spartans in Columbus. If they can, the game probably won’t be too close.