Michigan State and goalie John Lethemon put on as good a showing as they could, but the Buckeyes just found a way.
Ohio State managed to win by a goal in overtime on Saturday night to sweep the Michigan State Spartans and advance to the Big Ten tournament semifinals, as Michigan State’s goaltending kept them in a game they were outshot in, 42-18. Ohio State trailed twice in the second period, by scores of 2-1 and 3-2, but rallied to tie it before ultimately winning in overtime.
OSU would pepper Lethemon with 15 shots on goal in the third period to MSU’s six, but couldn’t find a way to get one in. It was just shot after shot and save after save. Ohio State came in ranked No. 6 in the country in the USCHO.com poll and played like it in this one. Michigan State has some of the worst possession stats in the country, and couldn’t keep up with the OSU shot generation machine. But Lethemon kept them in it. Ohio State would rally to tie but could never take that final lead until overtime.
Romeo only stopped 15/18, but when your team puts more than twice the shots on goal against the opposition, you really don’t have to be that great to get the win. Romeo wasn’t, but hopefully he’s saving his heroics for the later rounds and NCAA tournament.
Michigan State stayed with the Buckeyes similarly on Friday, but got steamrolled to the tune of four goals in the third period. Lethemon stood strong in this one for as long as he could, but with the Spartans unable to put any pressure on Romeo, adding only one shot in OT to Ohio State’s three, it just wasn’t enough.
Mason Jobst got this one started for the Buckeyes, and with the way they played early and dominated possession, it looked like this one would be over much more quickly than on Friday in OSU’s 6-2 victory.
Jobst found his way in on a breakaway on the powerplay somehow and deked to the backhand and put it over Lethemon.
First period flashback: Mason Jobst scored his first of two goals in the game on the power play in the first period. It was his eighth PPG of the season. pic.twitter.com/kFej9m6Zcf— Ohio State M Hockey (@OhioState_MHKY) March 4, 2018
Matthew Weis and Wyatt Ege had the assists on the goal that gave OSU the first period lead at 11:09. But with under a minute left in the first, Cody Milan tied it up for the Spartans and despite Ohio State outshooting MSU 12-6 in the first, the game was tied.
The second would be a teeter totter affair as Patrick Khodorenko scored for the Spartans just 29 seconds into the first. Seven minutes and fourteen seconds later, Jobst scored his second of the game, once again on the powerplay, on a feed from the wall by Brendon Kearney. Kearney hit Jobst in the low slot right in front of Lethemon, and the junior tied the game right back up.
Just 22 seconds after that, however, the Spartans gained their lead back with a Tommy Apap tally. Michigan State would hold onto that lead for the comparably long 3:17 before making a pretty embarrassing defensive zone error.
After an OSU shot from the neutral zone on goal, Lethemon let out the rebound, presumably for his defense. Unfortunately for him, John Wiitala came streaking in as the puck slithered away from the MSU defender and sniped it right through the Spartan goalie for his second goal of the weekend.
The game was just full of weird offensive fireworks. And then the scoring stopped.
Ohio State put 15 shots on goal in the third after firing 12 on net in the second. But they couldn’t get that tiebreaker. Michigan State put up two goals on eleven shots combined in the two periods, so it’d be hard for them to complain. If anything, Sean Romeo kept them in this one far longer than they deserved.
So we went on to overtime. Michigan State would register just one shot on goal while Ohio State would deposit the game winner. The overtime functioned as the game before it had, with Ohio State dominating. Except this time, they finally got one in.
Michigan State looked like they were about to alleviate the pressure with a clear out on a spin-around slapshot but Sasha Larocque found a way to keep the puck in the zone while nearly all of his body was beyond the blue line.
Larocque then fired the puck on net, where it serendipitously deflected off Freddy Gerard’s stick and into the net, giving the Buckeyes the game and series.
So who will the Buckeyes face in the seminfinals next weekend? Who else but That Team Up North, Michigan. The Wolverines swept sixth seeded Wisconsin, and the No. 3 seeded team from Ann Arbor moves on to face the No. 2 seeded Buckeyes.
Ohio State won all four games against the Wolverines during the regular season and will host next weekend in Columbus. Michigan hasn’t lost consecutive games since...they last played Ohio State. Everything is setting up for the Buckeyes to be the favorites to head to their first Big Ten title match since 2014. Should be fun.