For the second straight year, the Ohio State hockey team took a 1-0 lead over Northern Michigan during the best-of-three opening round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association only to see the Wildcats come back to win the final two games and end OSU's season. The final blow this time around came Sunday night as NMU raced out to a 4-0 lead and finished off the Buckeyes by a 6-1 score at the Berry Events Center.
Mark Olver scored in the first and second periods and the sixth-seeded Wildcats (17-18-4) added two goals in the opening 126 seconds of the third to drive the nails into the coffin of 11th-seeded Ohio State, which ends its season at 12-25-4.
"We would have liked to have been able to come through tonight and move on in terms of the playoffs," associate head coach Casey Jones told WOSU-AM. "We thought we were playing well coming into the playoffs. We were competitive in every game. But unfortunately it didn't happen."
For the second year in row, Northern Michigan ended the careers of an eight-man Buckeye senior class. Captain Matt McIlvane, Tom Fritsche, Tommy Goebel, John Dingle, Kyle Hood, Jason DeSantis, Johann Kroll and Phil Lauderdale suited up for the final time in scarlet and gray.
They seemed determined to not go down without a fight during the opening 40 minutes, doing everything but scoring. Instead, it was NMU who got the goals, Olver scoring with 56 seconds to play in the first and again beating Buckeye Joseph Palmer with 5:12 left in the second on a pass from Eric Gustafsson while the Wildcats boasted a two-man advantage.
Ohio State had excellent chances while piling up 15 shots on Brian Stewart in the second period but somehow they did not go in. Sergio Somma was denied early in the period on the power play and team-leading scorer Tommy Goebel couldn't get the rebound, then Somma hit the crossbar five minutes into the period.
"The puck did not go in the 4x6 for us tonight," Jones said. "We had glorious chances in the first and second to take care of it."
Those missed opportunities would haunt OSU, especially as the wheels came off early in the third. Phil Fox beat Palmer five-hole with a soft shot from the right circle just 84 seconds into the period, then Jared Brown scored a power-play goal at 2:06 by putting in Gustafsson's rebound.
Peter Boyd got the lone OSU tally, beating Stewart from in front, 3:24 into the period for the 10th goal of his freshman campaign, but Matt Siddall's power-play goal at 7:41 into the period effectively stopped that run.
Ohio State lifted Palmer with 4:31 left but the Buckeyes could not score before Billy Smith bulged the open cage with 52 seconds to go.
The game got chippy as the time ticked down, with the Northern fans chanting "Oh how I hate Ohio State" in a reminder of the long, storied and physical history between the two schools. Smith taunted Palmer after NMU's third goal, resulting in OSU freshman Patrick Schafer running Stewart moments later to give the Wildcats a power play on which Brown scored.
Northern Michigan converted 3 of 8 power play chances while OSU was scoreless for the second night in a row.
Gustafsson finished with two assists, giving him seven in the series, an NMU playoff record. Olver's tallies gave up 18 on the year, Siddall's tally went to 16 and Fox notched goal No. 12 on the season.