The 6,703 fans at Value City Arena witnessed a reversal of fortune as Ohio State beat Michigan State 5-2 in the Buckeyes’ CCHA home opener.
The last time the Buckeyes beat the Spartans, 1,500 rabid fans packed the OSU Ice Rink in Ohio State’s last stretch in its old barn before moving into the Schottenstein Center, a 3-2 win on Nov. 14, 1998. Not one current player from either team participated in that game.
The last time the Buckeyes scored as many as five goals against the Spartans was back in 1997, in OSU’s 8-3 home win at the Ohio State Fairgrounds Coliseum, the then-home of the Columbus Chill of the ECHL.
How times have changed.
“I thought we were hanging all the way from the get-go,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley.
OSU’s Paul Caponigri and Scott May each had career-high four-point games. Caponigri had two goals and two assists; May had the empty-net goal and three helpers. Troy Ferguson and Jim Slater scored for the Spartans.
“I thought Ohio State played very well,” said Comley. “All we did was kind of hang around for a while and find a way to fight back a couple times, but they skated very well, they worked very, very hard, their size and maturity showed very much. They gave us fits all night long in our own end, and I thought they played very, very well.”
The Buckeyes dominated the first period of play, outshooting the Spartans 14-9, outscoring MSU two goals to none, and taking advantage of the Spartans’ obvious frustration.
If it weren’t for the efforts of MSU sophomore goaltender Matt Migliaccio — who had 32 saves in the game — and OSU’s own ability to shoot itself in its collective feet, the score of this game could have been much more lopsided.
“I thought the first period we won, territorially, but I thought the second period they played very, very well for 15 minutes, and we were lucky to rebound and get a goal to make it four to two before we went off the ice,” said Buckeye head coach John Markell,
Dave Steckel put OSU on the board at 8:51 on OSU’s first power play of the game. After Migliaccio made an outstanding save an RJ Umberger shot, Steckel was able to capitalize on a pass from Paul Caponigri. Scott May fired Umberger’s rebound and hit the boards behind the net, where Caponigri picked it up and passed in the slot to Steckel.
It was 2-0 at 11:24 when Caponigri netted his first goal of the night from May right off a faceoff in the Spartan zone. Caponigri took the pass from May, who’d won the draw; the puck went in off of Migliaccio’s glove low on the left side.
In the second, OSU allowed the Spartans back into the game with some sloppy play around the Buckeye net.
Said Markell, “I thought they got their transition game going and we got a little bit away from our game plan.”
Troy Ferguson drew the Spartans within one at 2:56 when he simply walked into the slot, drawing Mike Betz left for an open net on the right side. Kevin Estrada and Duncan Keith were credited with the assists.
But the Buckeyes answered less than two minutes later, capitalizing on Brad Fast’s penalty for shooting the puck after the whistle. Ryan Kesler’s third goal of the year, from Dan Knapp and Doug Andress, gave OSU a 3-1 lead.
Later in the period, Jim Slater made it 3-2, but Ohio State came back again with another goal at 18:03, Caponigri’s second of the night, and the Buckeyes carried a 4-2 lead into the third.
May hit the empty net at 19:33.
The Buckeyes finished the night 2-for-3 on the power play while shutting down the Spartan man advantage, which had been clicking at 42.1% in four league games.
“We knew coming in that they’re a good team,” said Comley. “We know what our flaws are. At times against good teams, they’re going to show. When you’re as young as this team is, it’s going to take some time.
“I thought Migliaccio played very well. The first couple [of goals] were kind of squeakers, maybe, but he made an awful lot of big saves and we certainly left him high out to dry at the end of the game … but sometimes you’re doing anything you can to get a chance.”
Near the end of the third period, Caponigri had a chance to net his first collegiate hat trick when he broke in alone on Migliaccio and shot short-side.
“I was kind of tired at the end of a shift, but I thought, ‘Hey, I might as well go,'” Caponigri said. “‘Hat trick’ started going through my head, and the rest is history.”
Moments later, RJ Umberger had a chance all alone on another breakaway, but Migliaccio stopped him as well. OSU outshot MSU 14-5 in the final 20 minutes.
“In the third period, I thought we limited them to not very many chances, but I thought they did a good job,” said Markell. “They turned it up after the first period. Nobody said it was going to be easy. They’re a good hockey program, and I’m thinking about tomorrow already.”
The Spartans (5-4-0, 3-2-0 CCHA) and Buckeyes (7-2-1, 4-0-1 CCHA) face off again Saturday in Value City Arena at 7:05 p.m.