EAST LANSING - The No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes defeated a flu-ridden Michigan State 1-0 in an intense goaltender battle. The Buckeyes earn a critical three points and pass both Michigan State and Michigan for sole possession of third in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State drops to sixth with only three games let on their schedule to determine Big Ten tournament seedings
All eyes fell on Michigan State’s sophomore goaltender Drew DeRidder in tonight’s matchup against Ohio state. After late breaking news that star goaltender John Lethemon was sidelined with a sickness, DeRidder stepped in to make his first start in almost four months. Senior forward Logan Lambdin also did not play, as around half of the team is feeling the effects of a flu bug as it plagues the locker room.
“I like the way our guys battled. Those are two teams that played pretty hard... it had a playoff feel to it... we didn’t know what they’d have in the tank” said head coach Danton Cole about the Spartans’ effort despite the hand they were dealt. “Drew [DeRidder] had to jump in and played a heck of a game for us... he gave us a chance to win” added Cole.
Buckeye defenseman Matt Miller’s early second period tally at 2:24 was the difference. The wide shot that sprung off of Munn Ice Arena’s notoriously lively boards and off the pad of DeRidder into the net was the game’s lone goal.
“Everyone in the Big Ten knows this rink has active boards and they used it... they took advantage of it” said DeRidder regarding Ohio State’s goal. “You forget about it... have to have a next shot mentality” added the sophomore. DeRidder, who was not certain he would play until this morning, denied 33 of 34 shots faced. Tonight’s game was his first start since November 2nd.
The Spartans tested Ohio State’s netminder Tommy Nappier 25 times through three periods, with all 25 shots turned away. “We need to do a better job generating offense... having a shot first mentality and generating second chances” “It’s only 1-0 but you’re not going to win a game scoring 0 goals” said senior forward Sam Saliba. Saliba, a co-captain, noted that “two goals in the last three games isn’t going to win you a lot of games.” The Spartans seemed afraid to shoot the puck all night, with multiple two-on-one opportunities where the puck never was fired and two power-plays with more cycling than looks towards goal.
“We’re never going to quit, we’re always competing and fighting until the end... we have to regroup and continue that mindset and get a little more to the net” added Saliba. “Not gonna make excuses but I guess the bug hit us at the wrong time... I liked our effort and we did a lot of good things. We have to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Michigan State and Ohio State will finish the series tomorrow night. Puck drop it set for 7 p.m. at Munn Ice Arena. The Buckeyes now sit third in the Big Ten with 34 points. The Spartans fall to 6th place, as Notre Dame surpassed them with a 2-1 victory over the Michigan Wolverines. The 1-0 defeat is the Spartans’ third straight, and they have only one one of their previous six contests.
If the season were to end today, Michigan State would play Ohio State on the road in the first round of the Big ten tournament. However, with most teams having three games remaining in the regular season, there is no telling how the Big Ten logjam will clear and how the playoff picture will form. The only guarantee is Wisconsin playing the second place finisher on the road in the first round.
OSU goal at 2:24: Matt Miller (5). Assisted by Quinn Preston (8) and Eugene Fadyeyev (5).
IN THE BIG TEN:
Notre Dame 2-1 Michigan
The Fighting Irish added three points with an away victory in Ann Arbor, jumping ahead of Michigan State in the conference standings. They now are in fifth place with 32 points. Notre Dame will host Michigan State in both teams’ final series of the regular season next weekend.
Penn State 3-3 Minnesota
The two squads tied for first in the conference went to overtime in their first matchup of the weekend. Penn State earned the extra point in 3-on-3 to take sole possession of first in the Big Ten. Penn State closes out their regular season against Minnesota tomorrow night. Minnesota will host Michigan next weekend.