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With goals by Doug Andress, Daymen Bencharski, and Paul Caponigri, Ohio State beat Michigan State 4-1 to complete a two-game sweep of the Spartans in Value City Arena.
To put this weekend in perspective for both hockey programs, consider that coming into this series Michigan State was 69-13-7 all-time against Ohio State, and 7-1-2 against OSU in the last ten meetings between the teams.
The last and only other time Ohio State swept Michigan State in a single weekend was back in 1972 — before any of the current Buckeyes and Spartans were born, and probably while many of the parents of current players were in grade school.
“Before the weekend, people were asking me if we’d ever been ranked ahead of Michigan State and that was a, ‘No,'” said OSU captain Scott Titus. “I really didn’t care. I told the guys it didn’t matter if they were number one or number thirty; they’re still Michigan State. They’re a historic program. We won the first game and winning two was unbelievable.”
Titus, a fifth-year senior who redshirted the 2000-01 season, was the only player for either team who was present the last time the Buckeyes beat the Spartans before last night — back on Nov. 14, 1998, in the old OSU Ice Rink.
The Buckeyes relied on special teams and tight goaltending to capture their second consecutive win over the Spartans. OSU was 1-for-5 on the power play while holding the Spartans 0-for-6 with the man advantage. The Buckeyes also tallied a shorthanded goal.
“I’m very happy,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “They [MSU] were a better hockey team tonight than they were last night. Again, [in] the second period I thought they dominated us a little more than maybe they did last night. I thought our defensemen and our goaltender kept us in there in the second game; I thought they played very, very well.
“I thought they worked extremely hard as an opponent. Obviously, in the end, it came down to special teams. We did a good job of killing penalties. We had opportunities to score, but I think they all hit him [MSU netminder Justin Tobe] in the chest in the second period.”
The Buckeyes were up 2-0 after one on goals by Andress and Bencharski. Andress took a feed from the right corner in the Spartan end from Miguel Lafleche and put the puck past Tobe at 4:04 to make it 1-0. Eric Skaug also assisted on the play.
Bencharski made it 2-0 when he stole the puck in front of the Spartan net and pushed it in under Tobe’s spread-eagle legs. The unassisted goal was Bencharski’s fifth marker of the season.
Mike Lalonde scored the lone MSU goal just 14 seconds into the second period, assisted by Jim Slater and John-Michael Liles, and the Spartans shut down the high-flying Buckeye offense for the rest of the middle period.
“I thought we played hard, started slow,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley. “We’re giving up an awful lot of early goals, and that kind of puts you on your heels. I thought we looked real sluggish in the first then played very, very well in the second.
“In this game bad penalties at bad times will certainly ruin a hockey game and the penalties we took, coming from behind, gave them the power-play goal.”
Late in the third, Steve Clark took two for checking from behind, and Andress found the net again — this time from Scott May — to give OSU a 3-1 lead at 14:40.
Caponigri’s shorthanded goal, his third goal and fifth point of the weekend, made it 4-1 at 17:40.
The goals by Andress were the first two of the season by a Buckeye blueliner, but OSU’s defense has been contributing assists on a regular basis to an offense that is now averaging 4.20 goals per game in conference play.
“We haven’t asked them to do that; they’re just getting themselves into better position to pick off passes,” said Markell. “First and foremost on our minds is for them to clean up their own end, and when they don’t have to work too hard to do that, then they get an [offensive] opportunity.”
Andress, who registered five goals in his freshman season but just one last year, said he was “lucky” tonight.
“This weekend reminded me of my freshman year, you could say,” said Andress. “I thought I was at the top of my game then. I just had an off year, and I think I’m back at it.”
“Doug Andress had an off year last year offensively,” said Markell. “He’s starting to show that he can play the game. Skaug with an assist — any kind of an assist for him is a bonus, but he’s a mainstay back there physically on the defensive end.”
Although the weekend sweep may represent a defining point for each program, Titus said that the Buckeyes have more on their minds than just these two wins. “I thought it would be even better after the game but I was already thinking towards Ferris State, to tell you the truth.”
Next up for Ohio State (8-2-1, 5-0-1 CCHA) is a two-game set in Big Rapids against the Bulldogs (9-3-0, 7-1-0 CCHA), Nov. 22-23. The Spartans (5-5-0, 3-3-0 CCHA) head to Bowling Green (2-8-1, 0-7-1 CCHA) next Friday for one game.