It was a game of singular interest. One post hit early in the first. One third-period shot, the go-ahead goal. One shot in overtime.
Two points for Ohio State.
RJ Umberger scored 31 seconds into overtime to salvage the game for the Buckeyes, giving OSU a 3-2 win over Western Michigan, keeping the Buckeyes in the hunt for first place, and extending OSU’s home league unbeaten streak to 16 games dating back to the 2001-02 season.
Rod Pelley had the tying goal for the Buckeyes at 19:14 in the third with netminder Mike Betz pulled for the extra skater, a necessity after Dana Lattery put WMU ahead 2-1 on Western’s only shot in the third.
Betz had 15 saves in the win, and Bronco Scott Foster, who played an excellent game, made 26 saves in his fifth loss of the season.
“Obviously it came down to the wire, but I’m very happy with the win,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “At this time of the year, the point is to get the wins in. We can always talk as a team and make adjustments. We figured out a way to win, and I compliment our guys to holding them down to one shot on net in the third period.”
“I’d like to see who’s taking the shot charts,” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane, who called the single third-period shot registered by the Broncos “kind of interesting.”
“I disagree with that,” said Culhane. “It’s no big deal. Scored on it, though.”
Many penalties were called in the game, but few infractions actually committed. Because of the near-constant special-teams play, there was very little sense of this as a hockey game until the third period, when referee Brian Aaron eased up a little on the whistle. The Broncos were 0-for-8 on the power play; the Buckeyes 1-for-5.
“We burned a lot of energy in the first period killing all those penalties,” said Markell. Through the first 30 minutes of the game, the Broncos had 11 full minutes of the man advantage, and 11 shots on goal.
“It was hard for our guys to get a feel for the game,” said Markell. “In the third period was the only time we could roll a few lines. Other than that, it was broken up by power plays and penalty kills. That’s just the way he called the game and we have to accept that.”
Dave Steckel opened the scoring for OSU on the Buckeyes’ first power play 12:22 into the first period. Steckel tipped in Umberger’s blast from the right point to give OSU the 1-0 lead after one.
Pat Dwyer evened it up for the Bronco’s at 14:51 in the second, picking up the rebound on Andrew Dwyer’s initial shot. It was 1-1 after 40 minutes of play.
Early in the third, Lattery capitalized on the turnover he forced in the Buckeye zone. After stealing the puck near the blue line, Lattery skated back towards Betz and fired from left of the net, beating the OSU goaltender five-hole to give WMU its only lead of the game.
At 18:31, the OSU bench called a timeout and pulled Betz in favor of the extra skater. Pelley’s tying goal came at 19:14, fed by J.B. Bittner from behind the Bronco net, and tucked into the cage behind Foster, low near the right post.
“We had worked on that play all week,” said Markell. “We worked on getting ourselves in better scoring positions with the puck down around the net. It paid off.”
It took 31 seconds and one shot for the Buckeyes to win in OT. Umberger skated into the Bronco zone on the left wing, crossed right, and slapped it past Foster on the near side.
“I think both teams played pretty well,” said an unhappy Culhane. “Unfortunately … we didn’t execute down the stretch when the goalie was pulled. We could have executed better on our power play. If we would have done that, maybe we would have had a different outcome.
“Maybe a break here or too, also.”
The puck bounced in OSU’s favor early in the game, as it ricocheted off the left post before the three-minute mark, and danced along the Buckeye goal line minutes later.
“We told the guys we’ll reflect on it right now,” said Culhane. “Once we shower up and get cleaned up, we need to get ready to move on and get ready for a big game tomorrow night, try to get a split out of here.”
The Broncos (13-13-1, 11-8-0 CCHA) and the Buckeyes (19-6-3, 13-4-2) face off again in Value City Arena at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night.