Hockey Faces Rubber Match

The young Ohio State hockey team's first try at advancement in the playoffs didn't go so well. The Buckeyes lacked the hunger necessary to polish off a Northern Michigan team in a do-or-die situation, as the Wildcats' 4-2 win Saturday night set up a Sunday winner-take-all showdown.

Considering that the Ohio State men's hockey team hadn't swept a Central Collegiate Hockey Association opponent all season, it might have been silly to expect the Buckeyes to finish off first-round playoff opponent Northern Michigan with a two-game sweep in the best-of-three series.

That's exactly how things developed, as an NMU team fighting for its playoff life never trailed on the way to a 4-2 win over the young Buckeyes Saturday night at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Mich.

"I just think that it's tough to knock a team out and end some guys' careers, and that's what our team is facing right now," associate head coach Casey Jones told WOSU-AM. "Bottom line, usually these games don't come down to X's and O's. It comes down to who wants it more, who's going to pay the price in the critical areas, who's going to make the smarter plays, who's going to be disciplined."

The teams will play a winner-take-all Game 3 Sunday night at the BEC at 7:35 p.m. Last season, NMU won the final two games of a first-round series to advance after Ohio State jumped out to a 1-0 series lead in Columbus.

Unlike Friday night, when 11th-seeded OSU captured a 4-3 win by looking like the sharper team, this game saw Northern Michigan play like a squad that did not want to see its season end. The sixth-seeded Wildcats scored two goals in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and grab momentum.

Those goals came off the sticks of Phil Fox 1:28 into the frame and Mark Olver, who tallied on the power play with 1.1 seconds left in the second period to stun the Buckeyes.

The opening goal to beat OSU's Joseph Palmer came from the stick of Nick Sirota at the 3:00 mark and served as the junior's 17th goal of the year. Jason DeSantis tallied just 4:03 later, beating Brian Stewart clean, to make the score 1-1.

"I thought actually in the first period there when we scored that goal we kind of settled in for a bit and it was a pretty good game at that point in time," Jones said. "But obviously the backbreaker tonight was getting scored on going into the third period. It was a little bit deflating for the guys."

That deflation showed when the Buckeyes allowed Sirota again to score, this one coming 6:18 to the third when he found the bouncing rebound of a Matt Siddall shot and beat Palmer.

OSU got a goal with 15.3 seconds left when Kyle Reed deflected in a shot by DeSantis, giving the senior blueliner five points on the weekend.

With 1:55 to play, OSU defenseman Nick Biondo earned a penalty shot when he was hauled down coming out of the penalty box, but Stewart brushed aside his lonely attempt.

Stewart, who looked shaky Friday night, turned away 25 shots while Palmer stopped 23.

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