The Ohio State hockey team had one of its best offensive games in quite some time Friday night in Value City Arena on the way to a 10-1 win against visiting Bentley.
However, in the latest "yeah, but…" moment for the squad, the talk after the game wasn't so much about how the Buckeyes took it to the visiting Falcons in front of 2,495 fans but about how they still played nowhere near their potential during their fifth win in a row and eighth in nine games.
"Believe me, I'm happy that we scored 10 goals. When wouldn't you be?" Ohio State head coach John Markell said. "But our approach into the game – that team outcompeted us for two periods. It's plain and simple."
Markell had a point; the Falcons scored the first goal of the game and held a 14-6 advantage in shots through 20 minutes as Ohio State looked askew during its first game after finals week. The score was only 3-1 in favor of the Buckeyes (10-6-1) going into the final period, and the team's last five goals that set the inflated final score were rung up on the power play after the Falcons (6-6-1) completely lost composure.
"The third period, we got back to our game plan and it showed," said sophomore captain Peter Boyd, who was one of four Buckeyes with three points. "I don't think the score was realistic to the game. They did outplay us the first two periods. We have to get back to the tape and see how we can improve."
It certainly would be hard for the Buckeyes to get better in the scoring department. It was only the second time in the 10-year history of the VCA that Ohio State hit double digits, the first coming in 2000 against a now-defunct Findlay program. The seven third-period goals were the most in a frame ever for OSU in the building, and Ohio State now has scored 17 goals over its last two games.
Fifteen Buckeyes had points, and the only player to have two goals was senior Corey Elkins. Boyd, John Albert and Ian Boots finished with a goal and two assists apiece.
Hunter Bishop tallied to score for his fourth straight game, while Boots pushed his point streak to five games. Albert now has multiple points in three straight games, while C.J. Severyn had a tally to give him four in four games – after he opened his career with 37 straight goalless contests – and Sergio Somma scored to give him three in four games.
The night even was kind to players who usually don't get on the scoresheet, as sophomore defenseman Erick Belanger scored his first career goal and Taylor Stefishen and Michael Folkes each earned their first-ever assists.
"Guys are starting to connect," Elkins said. "That's what it takes to win. You need secondary scoring. Our whole team, everybody's chipping in."
On this night, that list included everyone but Zac Dalpe – who entered as the team's leading goal scorer – as well as Patrick Schafer and Chris Reed.
The red light went on so often on the Ohio State end of the ice that it's hard to remember that the Falcons actually led 5:25 into the game when a poor clearing attempt by Boyd allowed Bentley to continue applying pressure that led to senior Pat Percella's fifth goal of the year.
It could have been 2-0, but Buckeye goaltender Dustin Carlson stretched to his left midway through the period to stop Erik Peterson's rebound chance when the sophomore thought he had an open net.
"Dusty had been doing that all year for us," Boyd said. "I expect that from him every night if you want to know the truth."
Ohio State tied the score at 10:47 when Somma stole the puck from goaltender Joe Calvi – who had entered on a four-game winning streak – and fired it into the net before Calvi could get back. Sixty-eight seconds later, the Buckeyes took the lead for good when Elkins' fanned on a shot in the slot only to see the puck ricochet in off of defenseman Ryan Kayfes, who had given Elkins' his golden chance by losing his balance behind his net seconds earlier.
Senior captain Zach Pelletier doubled Ohio State's lead 3:56 into the second when he capped a fantastic shift for the Buckeyes by dribbling the rebound of Severyn's shot through a mess of bodies and Calvi.
Severyn ended the drama just 10 seconds into the third when he made the score 4-1 by skating in on the left wing and ripping a shot by Calvi's glove.
"When you're trying to come back from behind 3-1, you can't give up a goal that quick," Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist said. "I think at that point we fell apart."
That might have been an understatement. Boots scored at 4:50 to chase Calvi and bring on Nick Moise, who was done no favors by his defense.
On the power play, Albert banked in a puck off of defenseman Bobby Preece at 12:11, and Preece responded by firing the puck at the boards in anger and then earned a major spearing penalty and game disqualification for hitting Somma. In addition, Anders Olson was called for major checking from behind penalty at the same time, giving the Buckeyes a five-minute two-man advantage.
Bishop and Elkins each scored in short order and Kyle Reed would have as well if he could have pulled the trigger. Even with Bishop in the box for two minutes during the span, Boyd scored on the resulting 4-on-3 to make it 9-1, and Belanger scored with 13.2 seconds left while Ohio State was on another 5-on-3 thanks to a late scrum.
Through it all, Carlson made 27 saves and Ohio State ended a prodigious 5 for 11 on the power play.
The teams will be back for a contest Saturday night at 8:05. The contest will be Ohio State's last before the holiday break, and Markell would like to see a better team from the one he saw for large stretches of tonight's contest.
"We have to be prepared here tomorrow for their best shot because they gave us an awful good one today," he said. "They were physical, they skated hard. They just didn't finish their opportunities. We just didn't present a good game the first couple of periods."