Abby Sweet / Lantern photographer
Coming into its weekend series against Ferris State, the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team was struggling, and after two games against the No. 13-ranked Bulldogs, not much changed.
The No. 5-ranked Buckeyes’ three-game losing streak ended Saturday night when OSU tied Ferris State 3-3. Their winless streak, however, increased to six games following a 4-3 loss Friday night and the tie Saturday.
OSU came into the weekend struggling on both ends of the ice. The Buckeyes gave up eight goals in two games to Michigan on Jan. 13 and Jan. 15, and only managed to score once against the Wolverines during those games.
The Buckeyes’ offensive woes were somewhat corrected, scoring six goals in two games against the Bulldogs. The defense, however, continued to struggle, giving up seven goals total Friday and Saturday night.
“We have to do some things well in front of our goaltenders,” said OSU coach Mark Osiecki of the defensive effort in Friday’s 4-3 loss. “We did not help on three of their four goals. It made it tough for (junior goalie Brady Hjelle).”
Due to the poor play of the defense, OSU fell behind early in both games. Trailing for most of the game is something the Buckeyes are getting accustomed to, as OSU has now gone 10 games without holding a first-period lead.
OSU senior defenseman and co-captain, Sean Duddy, placed the blame of the slow starts on himself and fellow senior co-captain, forward Cory Schneider.
“It starts at the top,” Duddy said of the early deficits. “Me and (Schneider) have to do a better job of getting guys going. We have to figure it out. We’ll talk and we will figure it out, I’m sure of that.”
Ferris State got things started at the 7:02 mark in the first period on Saturday night. Senior defenseman Derek Graham tapped in the puck from the far post after receiving the puck from freshman defenseman Simon Denis.
OSU answered with a tally from freshman forward Tanner Fritz. The freshman got the puck after Buckeye freshman forward Darik Angeli knocked it toward the net following a faceoff in Ferris State’s zone that was won by OSU senior forward Danny Dries.
The Bulldogs took the lead again early in the third period following a scoreless middle stanza in which senior OSU goalie Cal Heeter made 12 saves. Ferris State junior forward Kyle Bonis scored from the slot on a 2-on-1 break at 1:10 into the final period after Graham found him.
Dries tied the game with a shorthanded goal at the 10:10 mark. Dries received the puck just outside the Bulldogs’ blue line and he ripped a shot once he entered Ferris State’s zone that flew into the back of the net.
Less than three minutes later, the Bulldogs took the lead once again, tapping in a loose puck just outside the crease at 13:09 in the third.
OSU had another answer in them, as freshman forward Max McCormick backhanded a shot in to tie the game, 3-3, with 3:22 remaining in the game.
The game went into overtime, in which neither team scored. In the shootout, both teams’ shots were stopped in the first round, but the Bulldogs scored in the second and third rounds to get the extra point after OSU’s shot was stopped in the second round.
Dries said even though the Buckeyes only gained one point Saturday night, he saw signs of improvement.
“We scored with five minutes left to get to overtime, so that was good,” he said. “We’re taking baby steps at this point. We’re back to square one now and we have to try and get things going again.”
In Friday night’s 4-3 loss, the Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead after one period, and led 4-0 midway through the second period.
The Buckeyes rallied with goals from Fritz, sophomore forward Chris Crane and Angeli, but the rally fell short as OSU wasn’t able to tie the game during a five-minute power play late in the third period.
OSU fell to 14-7-4, 10-6-4-1 in the CCHA and holds a one-point lead in the conference.
Ferris State improved to 15-8-3, 9-6-2-1 in the conference and are four points back from OSU in fifth place in the CCHA.
The Buckeyes will take the ice again with a two-game series against No. 19 Lake Superior State (13-11-4, 8-9-3-3) starting at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Michigan.