Improved Icers Win Inaugural Shootout

If the rest of the 2008-09 season is like Friday night's season opener in Value City Arena, an exciting season is in store for Ohio State hockey fans. The Buckeyes never trailed Miami (Ohio) but needed to christen the conference's brand-new tie-breaking policy to finish off the No. 8 RedHawks by a 4-3 score.

Regular-season hockey returned to Columbus Friday night, and it brought with it just about anything a fan could want from a hockey game – including the home team leaving with a win. Sort of.

The Ohio State hockey team knocked off visiting Miami (Ohio) 4-3 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's first regular-season shootout in history in front of 3,181 Value City Arena fans who perked to attention during the tie-breaking spectacle. The Buckeyes will receive two points to move to the top of the CCHA standings, while Miami will take one.

But for purposes of determining NCAA tournament teams, the game goes down as a tie.

Confusing? Yes, but don't tell anyone who stuck around for the ending that had fans on their feet and in full throat. All three Ohio State shooters scored in the shootout, while Ohio State goaltender Joseph Palmer stopped one of the two shots he faced.

The back-and-forth contest won't go down in NCAA annals as Ohio State's first over their bitter rivals since Dec. 30, 2006, but the shootout win made it feel like one for the Buckeyes.

"It feels good," said Palmer, who stopped 24 shots. "They're just a tough, tough team to play against. They're always fun games to play in, that's for sure."

The result was fair given Ohio State's much improved play from a year ago, as the team displayed confidence and resilience that often wasn't present on last year's more veteran squad that finished 11th in the 12-team CCHA.

"There's a different feeling in the dressing room and there's a different feeling on the bench," Buckeye head coach John Markell said.

Even Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was left impressed both by the speed and quality of the game and the improvement in the Buckeye team.

"I think five-on-five, the whole night was an exciting game," said Blasi, who coached the RedHawks to the NCAA quarterfinals last year. "I personally think our team got better tonight. I really like the way Ohio State plays. I think John's done a really good job with the young guys."

Ohio State outshot Miami 11-7 in the opening period and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Buckeyes got on the board first on the power play at 12:10 of the initial frame moments after Miami's Jarod Palmer fired wide on a shorthanded 2-on-1. Sergio Somma raced up the ice and dropped a pass to sophomore captain Peter Boyd, who skated into the right circle and fired a shot low to the stick side and by Miami freshman goaltender Cody Reichard.

OSU added a goal just 14:08 later with Miami on the power play. John Albert forced a turnover in the neutral zone as the RedHawks tried to move up ice, and defenseman Chris Reed scooped up the puck and sped by flat-footed defenseman Ray Eichenlaub. Reed skated toward right corner and centered a pass that sophomore Patrick Schafer flipped into the net while falling to the seat of his pants.

Miami fought back for two second-period goals. Carter Camper scored with 6:22 left in the frame when he put the rebound of Jarod Palmer's power-play shot into the net, then Justin Vaive earned a marker with 46.2 seconds left in the period after he buried the rebound of Brian Kaufman's breakaway shot earned when Reed couldn't control the puck at his own blue line.

Ohio State lost a golden chance to score with 1:30 left in the period when freshman Zac Dalpe hit the post with Reichard out of the net following the goaltender's own turnover.

"Oh yeah," Markell said when asked if his young team that dressed six freshmen and 11 sophomores suffered a letdown after its impressive first period. "Young and naïve, thinking it's going to be 6-0. Not in college hockey. I said, ‘Get used to this boys, this is what it's like all season.' "

Markell had to be happy with his team's resilience when Somma scored just 29 seconds into the third on a deflection of Shane Sims' shot from the right point.

It wasn't going to be easy from there for the Buckeyes. Senior captain Zach Pelletier, playing his first game since the spring of 2007, received a five-minute checking from behind major and game misconduct with 10:05 to play. With just 50 seconds left on the power play, Ohio State's C.J. Severyn went to the box, and Miami predictably capitalized 16 seconds later with Palmer's goal at 14:21 from the top of the left circle.

Overtime came and went without incident, and then the shootout arrived. Ohio State's Corey Elkins started and beat Reichard with a backhanded shot over the glove. OSU's Palmer stopped Pat Cannone's low effort on the other side, and OSU went dormie with Dalpe's NHL-caliber, patient backhand-to-forehand move that ended with a shot over a sprawled Reichard.

With the crowd making the most noise of the evening, Palmer couldn't end it thanks to a sweet finish by Camper, but the Buckeye fans went home happy when Boyd beat Reichard clean, low to the stick side. Boyd and Palmer were mobbed by their teammates as they each reached center ice.

"It's definitely a great way to start off the season," Joseph Palmer said. "You're nervous about how the shootout is going to work for you, against you, how are things going to be, and obviously tonight it worked out in our favor."

The extra point gained from the shootout will go only toward determining CCHA standings, but the NCAA will view the result as a tie when plugging the result into its formula for determining postseason tournament eligibility.

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