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Ohio State men’s hockey sweeps two-game set against Alaska

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The Ohio State men’s hockey team (4-3-1) won its first series of the season last weekend against the University of Alaska Fairbanks (3-3-2).

After a 2-1 shootout win on Thursday, the Buckeyes shut the Nanooks out, 6-0, the following night.

OSU head coach Mark Osiecki said he is glad to see his team start to play at a high level every game.

“We had an honest talk with our guys (Friday) morning about developing more consistency as a team,” he said. “Everyone has to hold themselves accountable and play like upperclassmen.”

But it was underclassmen who led the way for the Buckeyes in Thursday’s win.

After two scoreless periods, OSU trailed Alaska 2-1 halfway through the third period. Freshman defenseman Ben Gallacher tied the game with less than nine minutes remaining on a power-play goal and forced overtime.

Neither team scored in the extra session, but the Buckeyes got an extra point in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings after winning their first shootout of the year. Forwards Tanner Fritz, freshman, and Chris Crane, sophomore, scored for OSU with senior goalie Cal Heeter preserving the win with a save on the Nanooks third shot in the shootout.

Heeter said he was happy with the way his teammates responded late in the game.

“We took our foot off the pedal in the second period, but we battled through and persevered,” he said. “Getting the extra point with the shootout win is big for the CCHA standings.”

The Buckeyes kept their foot on the pedal for an entire 60 minutes on Friday.

OSU took advantage of a game-misconduct penalty by Alaska, scoring three goals in a 2:27 span in the first period. Senior forward Danny Dries scored twice during the major power play, with Crane also adding a goal.

“The five-minute major changed the complexion of the game. We took advantage and gained the upper hand early,” he said.

Jumping out to an early lead after a close game the previous night was important according to Crane.

“Our team’s mentality has been to come out with the first punch in every game,” he said. “We came out to tell Alaska we were here to play.”

Dries liked how the Buckeyes scored on the power play.

“All of the power-play goals came near the crease and we knew that we had to get greasy,” he said. “At this level of hockey, the goalies are pretty good and it’s not likely you’ll score on the first shot.”

Freshman forward Darik Angeli scored on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period, and OSU led 4-0 after 40 minutes.

Sophomore forward Alex Szczechura tallied a goal in the third, and Crane scored for the second time in the game, leading OSU to the 6-0 win.

Osiecki was impressed with Crane, who had a team-high three points in the victory.

“He got the game puck tonight. He played some really solid hockey and gave our offense a huge lift,” he said.

The Buckeye’s defense was shut the Nanooks offense down in the win. Heeter had 27 saves, and OSU was 8-for-8 on the penalty kill for the first time in more than two years.

The five points OSU got from the two-game series puts them near the top of the standings in the CCHA. The Buckeyes are currently tied for second with Western Michigan with 11 points.

OSU will play at Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 4-5 before returning to Columbus for a two-game set against Northern Michigan starting on Nov. 11.

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