The Buckeyes scored three times in the third period in that game – the same number of tallies they have in the ensuing four games, all losses, the latest a 2-0 blanking at the hands of Michigan State on Friday night in Value City Arena.
"We're not the most gifted goal-scoring team as is," head coach Mark Osiecki said after OSU hit one crossbar and had what appeared to be a late equalizer disallowed. "We have to find a way to put pucks on net and crash the net and get ugly goals. That scoring drought is going to happen at all levels. You just hope it doesn't last that long."
Suffice it to say, the Buckeyes (13-13-2, 8-11-2-2) need something – anything – to go right as they continue their slide down the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
"You never know what happens when you score one goal," senior John Albert said. "Against Notre Dame a few weeks ago we got a few lucky bounces in that one game and we scored six goals. I wish we had saved a couple of those for the last couple of games."
Ohio State was caught in eighth place – the last that earns a home-ice berth in the first round of the league playoffs – by Lake Superior State, while the Spartans (12-13-4, 8-11-2-0) moved within two points of the Buckeyes in the table.
But while the Buckeyes continued their slide, Osiecki wasn't disappointed in his team's effort in front of 3,790 largely somnolent fans.
"I thought as that game went on, we played well," he said. "We did a lot of things well. We didn't score, didn't find a way to get that rebound goal, but I thought we played well again and unfortunately it was a lost faceoff and a non-blocked shot that ends up in the back of our net."
Tim Buttery got the game-winning goal in the second period, Derek Grant added an empty-net tally with 1:02 to play and freshman goaltender Will Yanakeff improved to 5-1-1 with his second career shutout. The win was MSU's second in a row, and the Spartans improved to 5-3-1 in 2011.
"We're getting better," head coach Rick Comley said. "There's only two seniors, so we're a young team. We're challenged offensively. Scoring is not very easy for us, but I've seen growth on a slow, steady pace. We didn't play as well as we did last Saturday (in beating No. 6 Michigan) but if you can find a way to win right now at this time of year, that's the big thing."
Buttery's goal was the only of 24 shots faced by Cal Heeter that eluded the Ohio State junior goaltender, who was excellent as usual.
Daultan Leveille won an offensive-zone draw back to Buttery at the left point, and the junior defenseman fired through traffic and beat Heeter through the legs for his first goal of the season.
"It was fortuitous," Comley said. "So many times there are great shots that don't go in, and then Heeter never saw it. It went through Leveille's legs and then the Ohio State defenseman's legs and through his legs, so sometimes you're lucky and the puck goes in."
That was all Michigan State needed in front of Yanakeff, who is quickly becoming a freshman sensation after making his debut in November. He is unbeaten in his last six starts and lowered what was a sterling 1.88 goals-against average coming into the game.
"It's a good feeling," he said after finishing with 32 saves. "I didn't expect it, but things happen and you get your chances and you have to take advantage of them, and that's what's happened."
He was at his best in the third period when Ohio State outshot the Spartans, 13-5. Peter Boyd had a great chance five minutes in from the right circle but Yanakeff was game, and he again denied Boyd with 7:30 to play after the OSU senior deked his way in off an offensive-zone draw.
Yanakeff also got some luck. Albert rang the crossbar from the left circle in the second period, then OSU freshman Chris Crane had an open look in the slot with 3:45 left but miscued his shot woefully wide left.
Finally, the Buckeyes appeared to tie the score with 1:22 to play on the power play when Travis Statchuk's centering pass from the right side deflected in off Cory Schneider's skate, but referee Stephen McInchak immediately ruled that it was illegally directed in by the OSU junior.
"He said it was 100 percent so you can't really argue," Osiecki said.
Ohio State was scoreless on three power-play chances while Michigan State was 0 for 4. OSU does not have a power-play goal in three games. … Ohio State seniors Albert, Boyd and Sergio Somma all played in their 150th career games. … Junior Danny Dries, who is tied with Somma for the team lead with 13 goals, did not play after violating team rules. … Osiecki presented the retiring Comley with a plaque before the game featuring pucks from his three stops at Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan and MSU. … Two teddy bears were thrown on the ice at the time of Ohio State's apparent late goal, but the Buckeyes are hosting a Teddy Bear Toss after the first goal during Saturday night's 7:05 p.m. rematch.