When the only Big Ten team with an unbeaten shootout record plays in two more sudden death games, the end result might seem like a forgone conclusion.
Not this weekend.
The Ohio State men’s hockey team (14-9-3, 4-5-3) picked up four points over the weekend by handing Michigan State (8-13-6, 2-5-5) its first two shootout losses of the season.
The Buckeyes traveled to East Lansing, Mich., on the heels of a three-game winning streak, and their confidence showed early Saturday afternoon when they took the lead on junior forward Matt Johnson’s fourth goal of the season.
But in the second period, the Spartans took advantage of two OSU penalties and scored a pair of power play goals.
OSU responded in the third period as Johnson scored again to tie the game at 2-2 and send it to overtime. The Buckeyes had more shots in the extra session, but the best chance to win the game fell to the Spartans when sophomore forward Michael Ferrantino directed a one-time shot on net, only for OSU freshman goalie Christian Frey to recover and catch the puck in his glove to force the game into a shootout.
Frey stopped each of the Spartans’ three attempts in the shootout, and a successful try from freshman forward Nick Schilkey was all the Buckeyes needed to clinch the extra point in the conference standings.
The resiliency displayed by the Buckeyes in the third period pleased head coach Steve Rohlik, despite his team’s performance earlier in the game.
“I’m a little disappointed with our second period, a little undisciplined with the penalties which gave (MSU) the momentum back,” Rohlik said in a press release. “But our team righted the ship and played a pretty good third period.”
Friday’s matchup was a similar affair, when the Buckeyes won in a shootout after erasing a two-goal deficit in the final 1:34 of regulation.
OSU was outshooting their opponent well into the middle period when MSU suddenly came down the ice and took the lead when senior forward Lee Reimer found the net for the fifth time this season. Then in the third, it was another senior forward, Greg Wolfe, who put the Spartans in control with a shot that whistled past Frey.
It was all OSU after that. The Buckeyes kept the puck in the Spartan end for long periods, but MSU’s sophomore goalie Jake Hildebrand stopped everything in front of him.
That was before two late MSU penalties changed the course of the game.
First, freshman forward Joe Cox was called for interference, and on the ensuing power play, OSU junior forward Tanner Fritz got OSU on the board with 1:34 left. Just 55 seconds later, OSU was on the power play again, and after a scramble around the MSU net, the puck was eventually slotted past Hildebrand by senior forward Alex Szczechura with just 1.7 seconds remaining.
After neither team could find the winning tally in overtime, the shootout went to five rounds before Fritz walked in and placed a low wrist shot into the back of the net to clinch the shootout win for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes are set to be back on the ice in Columbus this weekend against No. 12 Wisconsin. The puck is set to drop Friday at 7:05 p.m.