“I thought we worked hard again tonight,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “I tip my cap to our guys … we challenged them to get a little bit better and I think (they) did that as a team.”
Pace was the difference maker in the Buckeyes’ second conference game of the season as they hounded the Spartans (4-7-0, 1-1-0) for the first two periods, holding a 20-18 shot advantage through 40 minutes. OSU then preserved its lead during the third.
After failing to capitalize on second-chance opportunities in a 2-1 loss to Michigan State on Thursday, OSU opened the first period of Friday’s game with an increased offensive zone pressure and attempts on Spartans’ junior goaltender Jake Hildebrand.
The difference in gameplay was noticeable within the first 10 seconds of the game when Buckeye senior forward Nick Oddo won the opening face off and directed the puck on Hildebrand to create an early net scramble.
OSU found its scoring mojo in the second period after a delayed goal call gave senior forward Matt Johnson his third goal of the season and put the Buckeyes ahead, 1-0.
The on-ice officials didn’t originally see the puck enter the net, but the referees reviewed the play during the next stoppage and indicated the puck had crossed the goal line.
Johnson’s goal was counted a minute after he scored and was a product of the NCAA’s offseason rule changes that allow officials to determine the legitimacy of goals on plays that preceded the last whistle.
OSU used its momentum from Johnson’s goal on the man-advantage five minutes later when sophomore forward Nick Schilkey redirected a shot from the blue line past Hildebrand for the team’s second goal.
“It’s something that’s certainly a focal point for us,” Rohlik said of the power play. “At the end of the night, again, special teams are the key.”
The Buckeyes continued to dictate the pace of the game when senior forward Darik Angeli made it 3-0 after an odd-man rush at the 3:14 mark of the third period.
OSU sophomore goalie Matt Tomkins helped prevent the Spartans’ pushback, making 29 saves en route to his first collegiate shutout.
“My focus was just to keep the guys in the game and make those big saves when I had to,” Tomkins said. “They played excellent in front of me.”
The Spartans finished zero-for-three on the man advantage and were unable to capitalize on three power plays in the third period.
“We did a lot of good things,” Johnson said of the Buckeyes’ penalty kill. “We got in lanes and did a pretty good job of pushing them down, holding them in the corners and taking away a lot of shooting lanes.”
OSU is next set to play Western Michigan in the Shillelagh Tournament in South Bend, Ind., on Friday.