EAST LANSING, Mich. — After tonight’s 6-5 win over Michigan State, Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik seemed a little bemused.
“I keep saying it,” said Rohlik. “We can’t keep thinking we’re going to go running around and win 6-5 every night, but we scored enough to win.”
But that’s precisely what Ohio State seems to do – score just enough to win. For the second consecutive game, the Buckeyes won 6-5 in overtime, this time on the road after Joe Cox’s goal for the Spartans knotted the game with 1.6 seconds left in regulation.
Not only is this the second straight 6-5 OT win for OSU after the Buckeyes beat Michigan 6-5 last Sunday at home, but it’s Ohio State’s third 6-5 win in their last four games, their fourth consecutive win in which they’ve scored at least six goals, and their fifth game in six in which they’ve scored at least six goals.
In fact, Ohio State has averaged six goals in their last six games – all while giving up 4.5 goals per game in the last six. And they’re 5-0-1 in that span.
“I’ve got to say that this team’s resilient right now,” said Rohlik. “Ups and downs, the flows inside of a game that we play are unreal. It flows in a positive direction and all of sudden it’s going the other way. I’d like to clean some of those things up, but again, it’s a big win. It solidified our spot in the standings.”
The win locks Ohio State into a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten for 2015-16.
OSU’s opponent, Michigan State, scored five goals for the second consecutive game but with a very different result. Last Saturday, the Spartans beat Minnesota 5-0, and tonight, said coach Tom Anastos, Michigan State left itself exposed too often to put itself in a position to win.
“I just thought there were some coverage issues that we had tonight that cost us,” said Anastos. “We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be better.”
The Spartans led 1-0 after the first period on Ryan Keller’s fourth goal of the season, a little one-timer from the bottom of the left circle that hit OSU goaltender Christian Frey in the shoulder before popping in. The second period, though, saw six total goals with the teams swapping scoring for the first four.
At 2:38, Ohio State’s David Gust scored his first goal of the night to tie the game 1-1, just after a successful Michigan State penalty kill. Then at 5:35, the Spartans regained the lead with Mackenzie MacEachern’s 14th goal of the season, only to give up the tying goal less than a minute later as OSU’s Luke Stork scored at 6:01 to make it 2-2.
Then at 10:55, J.T. Stenglein put the Spartans ahead again, poking the puck past Frey with a lot of flat-footed Buckeyes standing in front of the crease, but Ohio State found the net again moments after a successful Michigan State PK at 14:50, when Anthony Greco forced the puck beneath Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand to make it 3-3. At 16:05, Gust scored his second and the Buckeyes led 4-3 after two.
Brendan Kearney put OSU ahead 5-3 at 6:14 in the third on Dakota Joshua’s sweet feed from behind the net, and at 19:58, Cox slid into the Ohio State net and the puck slid with him, sending the game to OT.
Matthew Weis’s game-winning goal at 4:34 in overtime didn’t light the lamp, officially, but after a review, the goal was called a goal and the Buckeyes won the game.
“We scored five, but then it’s kind of the kiss of death in overtime,” said Anastos. “We had point-blank opportunities, two or three of them, and we didn’t capitalize, and often times that comes up and bites you, and sure enough it did.”
The Buckeyes (13-17-3, 8-8-3-1 B1G) and Spartans (10-22-3, 6-12-1-0 B1G) play at 7 p.m. Saturday night for the final game of the regular season, a preview of next week’s Big Ten tournament play. The teams know already that they’ll face off in quarterfinal play in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday, March 17.