All the Buckeyes had to do to get focused was watch the opening game of the two-day event to get ready.
In that one, tournament favorite and second-ranked Miami (Ohio) lost to a Clarkson team entering with two wins, yet again driving home the message to the Buckeyes that any team can beat another on any given day. With that firmly in mind, Ohio State went out and took a 3-0 lead in the first period on the way to a 6-1 win over Army (4-12-1) in front of a season-high crowd of 4,846.
"We kind of had some meetings when we first got back on campus, and we talked about concentrating on our game and that being our focus," senior Corey Elkins said.
Elkins was one of the stars, scoring the Buckeyes' first goal and adding two assists. C.J. Severyn and Shane Sims each had two assists while Hunter Bishop extended his goal-scoring streak to six games. Mathieu Picard, Zach Pelletier, John Albert and Ian Boots also scored for the Buckeyes.
"We took care of our opportunities," head coach John Markell said. "I thought we did a good job of finishing better. I thought it was a good game."
The Buckeyes won their seventh in a row while improving to 12-6-1 and ran their home winning streak to eight games. Part of the reason has been the Buckeyes' offense; Ohio State has scored six or more goals in three of four games.
"That's what it's going to take to win big games down the stretch," Elkins said. "Any good team I've ever been on, we had one, two, three, four lines, everybody contributing. That's what we need."
Ohio State also took advantage of some shaky goaltending out of Army's Josh Kassel. A huge mistake by the senior allowed the Buckeyes to strike first, as 5:25 into the game, he gloved a shot going wide by Corey Toy only to spell the rebound in front of the net for Elkins to tuck into the net for his seventh goal of the year.
"We knew we weren't going to be incredibly sharp right off the bat," Elkins said. "I just tried to get to the net there and got a good rebound."
That goal seemed to give the Buckeyes some jump, and Severyn made a goal happen just 40 seconds later. He sent the puck in the zone, dipped by two defensemen to recollect it and then fed Picard across the crease for an easy tap-in.
Elkins then worked his magic again at 8:15, tipping a puck near the blue line to Boots in the left circle, and Boots' shot got in over the glove of Kassel, who looked unable to believe the fact that he had whiffed on the save attempt.
"I don't think that was his best period, but I thought he got a little better as the game went on," Army head coach Brian Riley said.
A few minutes later, it was Ohio State netminder Dustin Carlson's chance to turn red under his mask when a knuckling shot from the blue line by Army's Scott Warner evaded his swipe and dipped under the bar to make it 3-1.
That was all Army could muster, as Carlson finished with 27 saves, his best coming on a point-blank chance seconds after Picard's goal by Owen Meyer, the Black Knights' top goal scorer on the year.
The Buckeyes made it 4-1 at 3:05 of the second when Bishop took Elkins' pass in the slot and coolly beat Kassel over the glove.
Severyn, who has seven points in six games, set up another goal at 9:20 of the third, controlling the puck into the zone along the right side and feeding Pelletier in front for an easy goal that chased Kassel, who finished with 24 saves.
"My style of game is being physical and taking pucks wide and being a power forward, not dipsy-doodling around the blue line," Severyn said of the play that earned him his assists.
Albert has points in seven straight games, and his goal was a masterful work of individual effort with 10:54 to go as he stickhandled by a defenseman before scoring past backup goalie Joe Spracklen to set the final margin.
The Buckeyes didn't have a power play in the game and denied Army's two man-up chances.
Ohio State will go for its second OHC title in the event's five years Saturday at 8:05 against Clarkson, which stunned No. 2 Miami in the opening game of the event.
The Golden Knights entered at just 2-10-4 but looked much better than that after some opening jitters. They still led 1-0 after the first period thanks to 15 saves – at least three of the highlight variety – by Paul Karpowich and a goal at 1:39 by senior Shea Guthrie.
"The first period, they clearly dominated," Clarkson head coach George Roll said. "Paul stood big in net and gave us a chance to get our legs. From that point on I thought our team played a solid game."
Miami (12-4-3) tied the score in the second on a power-play goal by Carter Camper, but the Golden Knights earned consecutive tallies by Julien Cayer, Bryan Rufenach and Brandon DeFazio. Justin Vaive scored a power-play goal in the third for Miami to set the final score.
The RedHawks' eight-game winning streak came to an end. Miami, a two-time OHC champion, will play Army at 5:05 p.m. Saturday in the consolation game.