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Less than a week after surrendering six power-play goals in a 6-5 loss to league-leading Minnesota, Ohio State allowed a goal on the first Michigan State power play of the night, but the Buckeyes penalty kill came through when it mattered most, holding steady through the last 1:46 in regulation when the Spartans had a two-man advantage.
Said coach Steve Rohlik, “The first one went in, but most importantly was the one at the end and we did our job and that’s what won the game for us.”
It was how the third period began and ended that made the game for Ohio State. Tied 2-2 to start the third, John Wiitala tipped in Tanner Laczynski’s shot from the left circle to give Ohio State a 3-2 lead at 1:44, just as the Spartans killed off a penalty called late in the second period. At 18:14, Ohio State’s Dakota Joshua was called for interference, the Spartans pulled goaltender John Lethemon for two extra attackers, and the Buckeyes played their best defense of the night. Michigan State didn’t register a single shot on goal for that 1:46. In fact, the Spartans had three power-play chances in the third and didn’t have a shot on any of them.
“It’s unfortunate because we took a couple of penalties that you just can’t take,” said Rohlik. “We talked about that. You can’t make those mistakes against anybody. You can’t. Fortunately, our group came through on the penalty kill at the end to get the win.”
Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said that he liked the Spartans’ overall play with one significant exception. “I didn’t like the way the game finished. I didn’t like that we couldn’t generate any real danger, so that’s kind of stewing with me.”
Joshua opened the scoring for the Buckeyes at 10:25 in the first, his ninth of the season, when he managed to force the puck beneath Lethemon’s pads on some scrambling play in front of the Michigan State net. The Spartans answered at 12:06 when Brennan Sanford picked up Thomas Ebbing’s rebound to make it 1-1.
At 15:27, Laczynski flew in on the right wing, dragged his stick, fired and beat Lethemon clean, but at 19:40, Villiam Haag tied it again for the Spartans — that single power-play goal the Buckeyes allowed — when his shot from the left circle bounced off the crossbar and into the Ohio State net behind goaltender Christian Frey.
With less than five minutes remaining in the third and the Buckeyes leading 3-2, Michigan State’s Sam Saliba knocked in Mason Appleton’s initial shot, but did so with a high stick. There was no goal called on the ice and the officials reviewed it and upheld the call.
“Some nights the puck doesn’t go in the net,” said Anastos. “I thought for the most part with the exception of the end of the game, we entered the zone pretty successfully, but I didn’t think that we made good decisions with the puck to get it to the right spot. That’s a frustration.”
“We just came up here and beat a good team,” said Rohlik. “Their record and where they sit in our league might not show it. We’ve got to be better tomorrow. There’s no question. Inconsistency is the biggest thing for us.”
Ohio State (15-8-6, 6-6-1-1 Big Ten) and Michigan State (6-18-3, 2-9-2-0 Big Ten) play again in Munn Ice Arena at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.
Big Ten roundup
Minnesota 6, at Penn State 3
Minnesota freshman forward Rem Pitlick registered his first career hat trick as the No. 5 Golden Gophers beat No. 9 Penn State, 6-3, in Pegula Ice Arena. Pitlick had a goal in each period, including a second-period marker that tied the game 2-2 and the empty-net goal at 18:34 in the third, and he assisted on Justin Kloos’ game-winning power-play goal at 14:00 in the third. Tyler Sheehy had the first assist on all three of Pitlick’s goals, and Eric Schierhorn made 40 saves as the Nittany Lions outshot the Gophers, 43-31. With the win, Minnesota holds onto first place in the Big Ten with 30 points. With 22 points, the Nittany Lions remain in third place, two points ahead of Ohio State.
Wisconsin 5, Michigan 2
With three third-period goals — two scored 18 seconds apart — No. 20 Wisconsin surged ahead of visiting Michigan to win 5-2. Trent Frederic scored twice in the game, netting the game-winning goal at 10:23 in the third period. Luke Kunin had the first assist on Frederic’s game-winner plus another assist, and Corbin McGuire registered two assists. Jarod Zirbel and Seamus Malone scored at 17:43 and 18:01 to put the game away. Jack Berry made 25 saves for the Badgers in his eighth win of the season. With the 27 points earned in the win, Wisconsin remains in second place in the Big Ten, three points behind first-place Minnesota and five ahead of third-place Penn State.