After all, both teams took turns dominating during stretches, with Minnesota outshooting OSU 20-2 through the first 25 minutes of the series and the Buckeyes responding by dominating the third period of the final game 22-3 in the shot count. Both teams earned good goaltending, Ohio State's from sophomore Joseph Palmer and Minnesota's from the experienced Jeff Frazee and freshman Alex Kangas.
The only difference between the two squads? The talent-laden Golden Gophers were slightly better at putting the puck in the net while earning back-to-back 3-1 and 2-1 wins Oct. 25-26.
"They scored on their opportunities, and it was funny, they were exactly the same as the opportunities that we had, and we didn't score on them," Markell said.
That lament has become a familiar one through the first six games, during which OSU has a 2-4 record and an 0-2 Central Collegiate Hockey Association mark going into CCHA contests with visiting Ferris State tonight at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Value City Arena. In Ohio State's last four games, the Buckeyes have scored just one goal apiece. The only time OSU cracked the three-goal barrier came Oct. 13 in a 5-3 win against then-No. 15 Wisconsin.
Just two players, senior Tommy Goebel and freshman Peter Boyd, have lit the lamp twice. Goebel leads the Buckeyes with four points, one less than Notre Dame's Erik Condra had last night during a 7-3 win over Lake Superior State.
"Of course a 2-1 game is hard to lose, especially that second one against Minnesota where we got all those shots," Goebel said. "You get a little bit of a press going, but you can't do anything but try to put the puck in the net. You can't literally pick it up and throw it in there, so you just have to take it as it goes and hopefully they'll come in bunches."
Part of the problem comes from the fact that OSU's upperclassmen, who are to be counted on for goals, have not always come through. Senior Tom Fritsche, twice the team's leading scorer in his career, has a single goal and two helpers this season. Veterans John Dingle and Corey Elkins have a goal apiece, while sophomore Mathieu Picard had not hit the scoresheet despite showing signs of offensive talent last season.
The good news for the Buckeyes is that despite the fact they could not score more than once during that 22-3 flurry after entering the final period against Minnesota Oct. 26 down 2-0, they did, in fact, get those 22 shots on net, a sign that things are starting to pick up. Markell said the suddenly prolific outburst came from a bit of a new philosophy discussed going into that final frame.
"(Before the period) we were trying to make a play, take a shot, instead of take a shot and make plays off of that," Markell said. "There's a difference in that philosophy and they really got into that in the third period."
To that end, it might be hard to break some habits of the Buckeyes, who might need a lesson being selfish. For example, a skater like Fritsche, arguably OSU's most talented player and a 2005 second-round NHL draft pick, prefers to set up a brilliant play rather than make one with a shot on net. In his career, Fritsche has 28 goals and 63 assists.
"Some guys like myself, I like to be a playmaker, and you tend to hang out in areas where you can pass the puck and not really score," Fritsche said. "That's a problem because a lot of guys on our team like to do that, it seems like. So we've been trying to focus on getting traffic at the net instead of having guys get open for a pass. We want guys going to the net for rebounds."
Markell often espouses the doctrine if players practice staunch defensive play and do the little things right, goal scoring will come. This year, that has been slightly edited to maintain that if the defensive play becomes down pat, the offensive play could soon follow through more work during practice.
"You know what, I don't want to spend a tremendous amount of time on the defensive side of the puck, so the quicker they understand that and buy into it and the quicker they can relate to that, then we can work on the other parts of making little plays," Markell said.