Western Michigan's Riley Gill turned aside 37 of 38 shots and his defense did the rest as the Broncos came into Value City Arena on Saturday night and left with a 4-1 win, earned in front of 4,505 fans, that ended the Buckeyes' streak at an unlucky 13. In fact, Ohio State now has a three-game winless streak after tying the last two following 11 runs in a row.
"I thought that the goaltender played awful well," Ohio State head coach John Markell said. "We almost put 40 shots on net to their 19 and I thought some of them were pretty good. In the goalmouth scrambles, you think you can get a stick on it, and it just didn't happen for us to get back in the game."
John Albert opened the scoring for Ohio State (16-7-3, 9-6-3-3) before Tyler Ludwig, Max Campbell, Sean Weaver and Cam Watson scored in a row for the Broncos, who entered the game tied with Michigan State in last place in the league standings. Western Michigan improved to 7-13-6 and 4-9-5-1 to reach 10th place, while the Buckeyes remain parked in fourth place tied with Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha.
The Broncos' win came on the strength of a defense looked to be mismatched coming into the series. The Buckeyes entered with the league's top offense overall while Western Michigan had the worst defense.
It didn't matter because Gill, who Markell called the best player on the ice, was at the top of his game on each night. His defense did the rest by swarming the net to clear any loose rebounds. This was not a game for tic-tac-toe passing, and the shooting lanes weren't clear either, leaving some doubt as to how much leading scorer Zac Dalpe, out with a lower-body injury, would have helped matters.
"They cleared out the rebounds and they were there," Gill said of his defense. "I just tried to make the first save and my teammates were doing the rest of the work."
Ohio State earned its initial tally by just throwing the puck on net and winning a battle. Matt Bartkowski kept in Mike Levendusky's clearing attempt at the right point and sent a shot toward net that Todd Rudasill tipped. Gill made the first save but Albert swooped in for his ninth goal of the year, which came at 9:01.
That was the high water mark for the Buckeyes, whose night really took a turn for the worse in the final 2.6 seconds of the first period. Ohio State iced the puck at that time, setting up a draw to the left of goaltender Dustin Carlson. Buckeye captain Peter Boyd lost the draw to Jared Katz, who went forward with a shot on net that Carlson had to stretch to deny with his right pad.
Defenseman Tyler Ludwig found the juicy rebound and didn't miss his chance that beat the horn, officially at 19:59.
"They just executed that play well," Boyd said. "That was definitely a game-changer. We can't be allowing a goal in two seconds. I think our line specifically will take fault for that."
The Broncos had just three shots in the second period but earned the game winner at 11:53 on the first power play of the night.
From the top of the zone, Greg Squires fed Patrick Galivan at the left post. Defenseman Corey Toy was drawn to Galivan, leaving Max Campbell alone in the slot; Galivan quickly fed the forward who fired quick and beat Carlson clean for his 11th goal of the year.
Ohio State had a golden chance to tie with six minutes left in the period, but Gill made a fantastic save on Hunter Bishop at the left post and then watched Steve Silver clear a rebound chance off the line during a scrum.
That was the last good chance for the Buckeyes, who squandered a chance to tie after earning their first power play of the night 5:17 into the third. Instead, Sergio Somma fanned on a shot to allow a 3-on-1 for the Broncos that Sean Weaver finished with a snipe over Carlson's glove at 5:33.
Cam Watson added an empty net goal with 1:15 to go.
Carlson made 15 saves for Ohio State, which was fruitless on two power plays. Western Michigan converted 1 of 3.
The Buckeyes next go to Alaska for a two-game set on Jan. 30-31 before returning to Value City Arena to face No. 1 Notre Dame during February's first weekend.