With a will to score and a crash-the-net mentality, the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Ohio State Buckeyes less than six minutes into the opening period, and — spurred on by Keith Bartusch’s rock-solid performance in net — held on to upset No. 11 OSU 4-1.
The win ended OSU’s 17-game home unbeaten streak against league opponents (14-0-3), which dated back to Nov. 30, 2001, when Miami beat OSU 1-0 with .01 seconds left in overtime.
“We’ve actually scored first in quite a few games this year,” said UAF head coach Guy Gadowsky. “What differs tonight from some of the other games we’ve had, I think we played mentally tough after, and we didn’t let down.
“Ohio State certainly — especially in the second period — had great chances, but we got great saves when we needed them.”
Ryan Campbell netted two goals — including a shorthander — and earned an assist. Jared Sylvestre recorded two helpers as well.
The Buckeyes outshot the Nanooks 41-26, and nearly doubled up on UAF in attempted shots: 83-46. Buckeye Paul Caponigri registered a total of 11 shots on net himself — from everywhere on the ice — but Bartusch was up to the task, making 40 saves on the night.
The lone Buckeye goal came from RJ Umberger at 17:50 in the third.
“It’s [losing a shutout] happened to me a lot before,” joked Bartusch. “I didn’t really think much about it. I was just happy we got the win; I didn’t want to let any more in after that.”
Alex Staudt opened the scoring for UAF at 4:06 in the first, picking up Ryan Lang’s second rebound. Lang, Staudt, and Cory Rask broke into the Buckeye zone three-on-two, with Lang taking the puck up the left wing. OSU netminder Mike Betz stopped Lang’s first two shots, but the rebound on the second went straight to Staudt, who was able to capitalize on the empty right-hand side of the cage.
Then at 5:47, Jason Grinevitch gave the Nanooks a 2-0 lead, assisted by Campbell and Sylvestre. Grinevitch’s shot from the left of the crease went high to the opposite side, and UAF led 2-0 after one.
At 5:55 in the second, on OSU’s only power play of the night, Campbell scored his first of the game, unassisted, after stealing the puck at the Buckeye blue line. Campbell skated in and moved from left to right across the crease, tucking the puck in behind Betz low to the ice. It was 3-0 in favor of UAF after two.
Campbell’s second goal of the night was the exclamation point the Nanooks needed to cap the game. On another odd-man rush, Sylvestre and Campbell flew into the Buckeye zone, with Sylvestre on the left wing. Sylvestre waited for his opportunity to deke Betz and fool the lone Buckeye defender skating in; with perfect precision, Sylvestre sent a highlight-reel feed to Campbell — left to right, through the crease — who put it away neatly.
“I’m playing with a great line right now,” said Campbell. “I missed a couple [opportunities] in the first period, so I came out in the second and got kind of a lucky bounce [on the shorthanded goal].
“The one in the third period was a great pass out. Jared Sylvestre made a great pass to me and I was just driving to the net. I don’t think Betz had a chance on that one, either. It was just tic-tac-toe.”
Umberger’s unassisted third-period goal not only ruined Bartusch’s shutout, but it ended a scoreless drought for the once-high-flying Buckeye offense that lasted 147:47.
Caponigri said that the feeling among the Buckeyes was that if they could just score one goal, “the floodgates would open.”
“We’d never seen this guy [Bartusch] before,” said Caponigri, “and we didn’t know much about him.”
Caponigri also said that UAF is one of the faster teams OSU has seen at home. “They take a lot of chances, but they’re good at their game plan. When they get the puck, the wings fly the zone and they get a lot of odd-man breaks off of that.
“We have to come out tomorrow and be a little more defensive-minded first.”
Gadowsky is not taking the seeming ease of this win for granted going into Saturday’s rematch.
“[OSU] is a very, very scary team,” he said. “They have great goaltending and great forwards. They’re very skilled. We were fortunate that we got huge saves at huge times. That’s the difference in this league, usually.”
The Nanooks (11-12-6, 8-11-6 CCHA) challenge the Buckeyes (21-8-3, 15-6-2 CCHA) again in Value City Arena at 8:05 p.m. Saturday.