That's exactly what happened. Sixth-ranked Michigan State jumped out to a 2-0 lead less than 11 minutes into the first period and did not look back on the way to a 4-1 win in front of a season-best 9,195 fans.
"I think it just starts with the beginning of the game," OSU netminder Joseph Palmer said. "We have to go out and we have to dictate how the game is going to be played. Obviously we want to play our style being at home and everything, and the first period we came out a little flat."
The Spartans (15-5-4, 11-2-2) put 18 shots on Palmer during the first 20 minutes and had all the goals they needed when Tim Crowder scored his ninth goal of the year at 10:46.
The opening goal took just 2:06 and was set up by a penalty by freshman defenseman Corey Toy 1:15 into the game that gave MSU's power play, ranked sixth in the nation, an early chance. Ohio State senior Johann Kroll couldn't clear the puck after a delayed offside on MSU, allowing Crowder to control and break in on Palmer along the left side. Palmer stopped his original shot but couldn't snag the rebound before Bryan Lerg shoveled it home.
The second goal came off of a faceoff in the OSU end. Jeff Dunne's shot from the point deflected to Matt Schepke in the slot. Schepke's snap shot was stopped by Palmer, but the rebound went right to Crowder on the left to put home.
At that point, it was welcome to the big show for an Ohio State team (7-16-2, 3-11-1) that played nine freshmen against a team that is now 7-0-2 in its last nine Central Collegiate Hockey Association games and, oh yeah, has a ring on its finger from last year's Frozen Four win in St. Louis.
"A couple of pucks we had complete control of and they end up getting scoring opportunities," head coach John Markell said. "What I told them before the game was when you make your decisions, whether it's right or wrong, be aggressive. I thought some of the guys got caught in between."
Even a late period tally at 15:44 by Ohio State wasn't enough to turn things around. Jason DeSantis' rush up the right side resulted in a shot that bounced behind Spartan netminder Jeff Lerg after the goaltender got a piece of it. A mad scramble ensued as the puck bounced across the crease; finally Goebel popped out from behind the net and slid the puck home.
A year after going scoreless in his return to East Lansing to play the team he suited up for his first two years of college, Goebel was able to get on the scoreboard. The tally left Goebel with 99 career points between his two stops, but afterward he was more upset with Ohio State's play than happy with his good fortune.
"I wasn't happy with the way we played," he said. "I think we gave away too much in the d-zone. I think we can play a better game than that, and that's been our problem all year, the inconsistency."
Perhaps he can take comfort in the fact that his tally spurred Ohio State's best play of the night. The Buckeyes flew throughout the next eight minutes sandwiched around the period break, even earning a breakaway for Sergio Somma 110 seconds into the second that the freshman forward shot wide, until a rookie mistake again slanted the ice against OSU.
Toy and classmate Chris Reed's game of patty cake south of Palmer's red line ended in disaster when Chris Mueller stole the puck and hit an unmarked Nick Sucharski in front. The Spartan junior, who scored in his third straight game, worked around Palmer left to right before flipping the puck into the net at 4:09. At that point, it was game, set and match.
"The third goal was the killer," Markell said. "The first five minutes (of the second) I thought we were playing very well. That's what I expected our team to play like, and then they made it 3-1 and we for 10 minutes went into a lull again."
Markell was perhaps being charitable, considering Ohio State had only one major chance the rest of the game. It came with seven minutes and change remaining in the game, as freshman Patrick Schafer deked into the slot and released a shot that crossed up Lerg but still ran into the left pad of the junior. Buckeye junior Nick Biondo had a rebound chance and drove it wide of the open net.
"I thought we did a really good job of keeping it in their zone and cycling it and taking the time of possession away from them," said Lerg, Bryan's cousin, of MSU's third period play.
Junior Justin Abdelkader added an empty net goal at 19:35.
The teams complete the series Saturday night at 7:35 p.m. Michigan State will try to improve its 76-20-7 all-time record against the Buckeyes.