The seventh-ranked Buckeyes dominated the first period Friday night against No. 11 Lake Superior State and then held on from there, extending their winning streak to eight with a 5-2 win in front of a season-high 3,284 fans in Value City Arena.
"We thought our first period was pretty solid for us," head coach Mark Osiecki said. "We were moving our feet well, playing our style of hockey."
Ohio State improved to 11-3-1, stayed unbeaten in 10 and moved into first place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association with a 8-2-1-1 league mark.
Not that the Buckeyes are too worried about that last part.
"Coaches talk about never being satisfied with where we're at," said defenseman Curtis Gedig, who had two assists. "We just keep working and trying to get better."
Danny Dries scored twice for the Buckeyes to become the first team member on the year to reach 10 goals. Alex Lippincott, Chris Crane and Alex Szczechura added tallies, while senior netminder Cal Heeter turned aside 29 shots.
Twenty-five of those saves came over the last 40 minutes as the Buckeyes showed some ill effects of having not played since Nov. 19.
"We didn't have our normal skating legs," Osiecki said. "Hockey is a tough sport. You get two days off from the ice and you're going to lose it, and it takes you a while to get it back."
So it helped that OSU had a 2-0 lead after a period when the wall eventually hit. Ohio State took the first six shots on goal of the game and finally got the breakthrough at 7:32 of the frame. Lippincott stole the puck from Kyle Jean along the right-wing boards, skated into the circle and fired a shot at goaltender Kevin Kapalka that hit a defenseman in front and deflected in short-side on the LSSU goaltender.
The rest of the frame was a mish-mash affair until Crane doubled the Ohio State lead with 1:04 left. Ryan Dzingel centered it to him at the left post from behind the net, but the puck kicked off the bottom of the cage and into the air for Crane to whack in with a baseball swing.
By the time the frame was over, OSU had a 17-4 advantage in shots on goal.
"I thought they had an excellent first period, took it to us hard and got a 2-0 lead, and that's what you want to do as the home team," Lake Superior State head coach Jim Roque said.
Heeter was a vacuum in the second period, sucking up 13 shots, most of which were long-range efforts that found a comfortable home in his breadbasket. The most dangerous play came with eight minutes left as he denied Jean in front and then did snow angels in a scramble until the Buckeyes were able to clear.
"Cal was solid," Osiecki said. "The players gave him the hard hat. He was the backbone for us. He made some subtle saves that were outstanding. He's going to be down on himself on one of their goals but he was there for us, especially when we needed him."
The third period was back and forth with the Buckeyes never letting the Lakers get closer than two. A big part of that was Dries making it 3-0 at the 4:50 mark as he went behind the goal and banked a shot off Kapalka's backside and into the net.
"We talk a lot about getting pucks to the net and good things happen," Dries said.
The Lakers (10-5-2, 6-4-1-1) came back with a power-play rocket from Kevin Czuczman at 9:43, but Szczechura replied three minutes and change later as he crashed the net and scored on the rebound of a shot Gedig on the rush.
Buddy Robinson again countered for the Lakers, completing a flurry with a tally from the slot at 15:06, before Dries lifted a shot 150 feet for an empty-net goal with 2:51 to play.
Notes: Kapalka finished with 28 saves of 33 shots after entering with a .919 save percentage on the year. ... OSU was 1 for 3 on the power play while Lake State was 1-2. ... Gedig, Dries, Szczechura, Max McCormick and Sean Duddy were all plus-3 for Ohio State.