Coming off finals week with a young team and facing a talented RedHawks team smarting from losing twice last weekend – not to mention a sweep during its last trip to Value City Arena in January – wasn't a good combination for the Buckeyes, who lost a 5-3 decision to an amped-up Miami team in front of a season-high 4,450 fans.
"We felt it going into the week," OSU head coach Mark Osiecki said. "All week in practice we were begging and searching. You kind of knew that you're coming into a playing a team that's a really well-coached team, a high-end team, in my opinion a top-10 team in the country, and we're going through it with 13 new guys going through finals. Our preparation was tough and we were trying to battle through it."
The loss was Ohio State's first since falling by a 3-0 score Oct. 20 at Michigan State. The Buckeyes, who got goals from Darik Angeli, Nick Oddo and Chris Crane, had won nine straight and were unbeaten in 11 consecutive.
The rivals will met again Saturday night in Oxford in the last game for each before the holiday break.
"It presents a new challenge," co-captain Cory Schneider said. "We were pretty high on ourselves and now we have a new challenge, a new opportunity. It's our last game of the first half to the season heading into break. We have a chance here to leave it all on the ice tomorrow night."
No matter what, Ohio State will go into the break leading the CCHA thanks to second-place Notre Dame's loss, and OSU appears it will stay atop the NCAA PairWise standings.
The affair was a typical Ohio State-Miami game. There was physical play and occasional fisticuffs; plenty of high-tempo, back-and-forth play; and the kinds of odd bounces have come to define this series in recent years.
The oddest, in fact, came with Miami nursing a 4-3 lead with 8:36 left. RedHawks defenseman Cameron Schilling tried to play the puck behind the net, but it went off the helmet of referee Brent Gawlik, bounded off the top of the net, hit the back of the helmet of Miami goalie Connor Knapp and went into the net, setting off the OSU goal horn to the delight of the home fans.
However, Gawlik immediately waved off the goal, and he was right – the NCAA rulebook states a goal cannot deflect off a referee, another player and into the net.
Both teams also got goals that benefitted from odd bounces off the boards in Value City Arena.
"That's a lot of bounces to happen in one game," Osiecki said. "I thought Miami did a good job moving their feet and creating a lot of those bounces."
In fact, the first such bounce led to Miami's first goal. An OSU clearing attempted kicked oddly off the wall, leading to a chain of events that ended with Austin Czarnik whacking in a rebound at the right post of OSU goalie Cal Heeter to make it 1-0 at 3:47 of the first.
The Buckeyes, as they often have this year, quickly responded when Darik Angeli stuffed in a rebound coughed up by Knapp into the slot 29 seconds later.
The first 10 minutes were played at a frantic pace – Miami had 11 shots, OSU 10 – before things settled in, but the RedHawks carried the pace until taking the lead at 1:33 of the second when freshman Blake Coleman scored off a cross-crease pass from Bryon Paulozzo.
Miami increased the lead controversially at 17:00 of the second. With OSU on the power play, it looked like Crane was tripped, but no call was made, and seconds later freshman defenseman Ben Gallacher turned over the puck. Miami senior Matt Tomassoni finished the breakaway with a nifty finish through Heeter's legs to make it 3-1.
Ohio State drew one back 53 seconds later on a nice play as Oddo skated in on a power-play rush and beat Knapp, low blocker, from the right side to make it 3-2.
That could have given Ohio State momentum going into the third but Miami scored just 2:43 into the period as Paulazzo took a pass from Curtis McKenzie, spun and fired from the high slot to stun Heeter low on the stick side. The goal meant Miami (9-8-2, 5-6-2-1) scored in the first four minutes of each period.
"When you're on the road, it's huge," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "It's tough sledding when you're playing a pretty good team like Ohio State. You try to get on top and force them to get out of their game a little bit."
The Buckeyes tried to get back in it as Knapp made an error behind the goal, letting the puck kick off the boards, hit his stick and then slide to the front of the yawning cage for Crane to tap in at 9:16, making it 4-3.
Minutes later, the apparent goal off Gawlik was waved off, and Heeter backed up Knapp's error with one of his own at 14:20 to set the final score. The OSU senior came out to play the puck but couldn't clear it convincingly, and Jimmy Mullin scored in the ensuing scramble.
Heeter finished with 33 saves, while Knapp had 27. OSU's power play was 1 for 6, while Miami's was 0 for 5.
Notes: None of the three teams above OSU in the USCHO.com poll won. No. 1 Minnesota Duluth tied while No. 2 Minnesota and third-ranked Boston College lost. … The next home game will come Jan. 13 when Ohio State hosts Michigan two days before the Frozen Diamond Faceoff in Cleveland's Progressive Field. OSU will play at Robert Morris on Dec. 30 and at Bowling Green on Jan. 7-8. … Five of the goals in the game – those by Oddo, Angeli, Coleman, Czarnik and Mullin – were scored by freshmen. … Knapp's sister Chelsea is a goaltender on the OSU women's team. After six games without a start, Knapp has played in three of the last four for Miami. … The win was the 600th in Miami history. … Miami moved to 3-0-1 against top-10 teams.