The Spartan hockey team will have to wait another weekend to celebrate it's first-ever B1G Conference regulation win. The Spartans earned their second shootout victory Saturday, after falling to the Buckeyes 5-3 Friday night at Value City Arena in Columbus. Consistency continues to be a problem for the Spartans, not only from game to game, but from period to period.
Friday night's game began about as poorly as possible for Tom Anastos' squad. The Spartans quickly took two minor penalties and found themselves killing a 5x3 advantage less than 5 minutes into the contest. The Buckeyes took advantage of the wide open ice, working the puck from high to low and finding Alex Szczechura wide open in the slot for the power play tally. Jake Hildebrand once again held the Spartans in the game making some incredible diving saves to keep the Buckeyes lead to one after the first period.
The Spartans found their legs in the second period, exploding for three goals, including two by junior Matt Berry. Berry opened the scoring for the Spartans at 6:38 of the second on a bad angle goal that beat Buckeye goaltender Matt Tomkins. With five minutes remaining Berry once again lit the lamp, this time on the power play, ripping a wrist shot top shelf on Tomkins' glove side. The last five minutes of the period had a wild finish, as Buckeye Ryan Dzingel scored his first of three goals, less than two minutes after Berry had put the Spartans in front. However, Spartan freshman Joe Cox would answer with less than 45 seconds remaining in the period, putting home a backhand shot off a centering pass from Berry.
The third period brought on the inconsistency once again for the Spartans. After outshooting the Buckeyes 15-7 in the second period, the Spartans lost the lead less than 2 minutes into the third. Goals by Nick Oddo and Dzingel put the Buckeyes on top for good 1:30 seconds into the frame. Oddo banged home a rebound after a nice drive to the net by Nick Schilkey and Dzingel embarrassed defenseman Nickolas Gatt, on the game winning goal a minute later. Dzingel blew past Gatt, who looked like he was skating in sand, before lifting a shot over Hildebrand's shoulder. The Spartans had chances to tie the game but couldn't finish around the net and at 16:25 of the third Dzingel finished off the hat trick with a power play goal.
Unlike Friday night's game, there was no broadcast of Saturday's game so my analysis is light. It was the Spartans who got off to the quick start as Matt Berry notched his 5th goal in 4 games, just 2:49 seconds into the game. That was the only goal for two periods, including a second period where the Spartans only surrendered 3(!) shots on net. That includes killing off a 5x3 power play while only surrendering one shot.
Again, like Friday night, the Spartans could not hold a third-period lead as the Buckeyes Derik Angeli scored a goal at 8:10 of the third period. The Spartans and Buckeyes traded chances through overtime leading to the second shootout in B1G Conference history. Michael Ferrantino, like he did against Minnesota, opened the scoring for the Spartans in the shootout. The Buckeyes' Tanner Fritz extended the shootout after Berry missed the net on his chance to end the game. After both shooters scored in the 4th round, the fifth round was scoreless. Tanner Sorenson, in the lineup for the first time since November 23rd, led off the 6th round by scoring for the Spartans. Hildebrand was able to stop Buckeye Angeli to give the Spartans the extra point, winning the shootout 3-2.
Reviewing The 3 Keys For Spartan Success:
- Shots- The Spartans actually outshot the Buckeyes Friday, and went well above their average registering 36 shots on goal. On Saturday, the Spartans, even with overtime were held below their season average with only 27 shots on net. The Spartans also held the Buckeyes to only 29 shots Saturday night, helped greatly by blocking 19 Buckeye shots.
- Penalty Kill- Ohio State went 2-3 on the power play Friday night, with the only Spartan kill being a 5x4 after the Buckeyes had scored earlier on the 5x3. To the Spartans credit, they rebounded Saturday killing all 4 OSU power play chances including another 5x3.
- Defenseman- Jake Chelios continues to rack up points, earning 3 assists on the weekend. The absence of defenseman John Draeger was felt Friday night, as his replacement Gatt was beat badly on the game winning goal. Friday was a step backwards for a unit that played so great against Michigan in their last game out, however from all accounts the defense played much better Saturday.
Around the B1G: Wisconsin swept Michigan at home with 5-2 and 3-1 victories. Penn State lost 3-2 to Minnesota on Sunday, and they play again on Monday night. Michigan State is tied for 4th place with Ohio State, only 2 points back of Michigan for 3rd.
Next Up: The Spartans return to Munn Arena next Friday-Saturday for a series with Penn State. Spartan fans can get a glimpse of the Nittany Lions as their game against Minnesota on Monday will be on Big Ten Network.