It felt like the 1970s again as No. 14 Ohio State and Bowling Green played a physical, intense playoff game. It really felt like the 1970s again when tempers flared over resulting in a fight that will leave the Buckeyes shorthanded next weekend when they start a best-of-three quarterfinal series at Alaska.
What didn't feel like the 1970s? The score. John Markell's old Bowling Green teams were the ones who used to have the better of the play in the rivalry, but his Buckeyes ended up on the right end of a 7-1 final to end their CCHA tournament first-round series ahead 2-0.
"It was a good win for us to move on," Markell, the current OSU head coach, said.
The damper was a fracas that resulted after captain Peter Boyd was injured late in the second period. The Buckeyes will at least be without two players because of suspension – and very possibly Boyd – next weekend.
Co-captain Zach Pelletier and Ian Boots received five-minute fighting penalties and disqualifications – penalties that require accompanying suspensions – after officials finally pulled apart tussling players in a bench-clearing scuffle that threatened to meet the standards set by plenty of bare-knuckle meetings back in the old days of what is now generally the team's practice rink.
"That was crazy," said OSU senior Corey Elkins, who ended his home career with a hat trick.
That incident provided entertainment for the spectators at the time but could have disastrous consequences on the Buckeyes' postseason run in the future. OSU sits on the NCAA tournament bubble heading to Fairbanks.
The on-ice action went Ohio State's way starting with Sergio Somma's goal with 57.0 seconds left in the first period that opened the scoring. The goal gave the Buckeyes a good vibe after Dustin Carlson made a number of solid saves to shut out BG during a period fairly dominated by the visitors through the opening 19 minutes.
Corey Elkins gave the Buckeyes' a 3-0 lead with back-to-back second period goals and the Buckeyes got power-play tallies from defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Shane Sims to take a 5-1 lead into the second-period break.
Elkins completed the hat trick with 7:06 to go on a breakaway to earn his second career three-goal game, his first coming two years ago against the Falcons. He assisted on the final goal, a tally by Mathieu Picard with 1:34 left.
"We're really happy," Somma said. "Obviously we're moving on in the playoffs. We're also going to enjoy it tonight but as soon as we get in tomorrow we're going to be looking forward to next Friday."
Nick Bailen had the lone BG goal, his fourth of the year in four games vs. OSU, as the Falcons' season comes to an end at 11-24-3.
"Unfortunately the second period we just gave up too many good chances and they capitalized," BG head coach Scott Paluch said.
A scary scene started the melee, that being Boyd crawling to the bench after a hit, perhaps behind the play and purportedly from James Perkin, left him seeing stars. The sophomore, who had four goals in his previous two games, was carted off with a concussion. His status going forward is unknown.
During the ensuing stoppage in play, BG goaltender Jimmy Spratt somehow ended up in front of the OSU bench arguing with Pelletier before giving him a whack with his stick. Buckeye Nick Biondo then started shoving Spratt.
"What are you going to do when the goalie is standing at your door with another guy?" Markell said. "You gotta defend yourself."
The conflict ebbed and flowed from there, threatening to spiral out of control with multiple players at times engaged as the benches cleared before settling down. Biondo and Bailen – neither of whom, inexplicably, earned a penalty – continuously were going at it while other players joined at their will. Spratt and Buckeye backup goalie Joe Palmer nearly came to blows at one point.
Eventually a 10-minute delay occurred before penalties were assessed. Perkin, Kai Kantola and Kevin Schmidt all received fighting majors and disqualifications for BG, while Spratt got another two minutes for delay of game. OSU's Pelletier and Boots – who got his third major penalty in 10 team games – got fighting penalties and DQs, leaving the former suspended from the first game and the latter for two games.
The extra penalties to the Falcons left Paluch less than pleased.
"I know it started by their bench," he said. "I don't like the result of what came out of that. I didn't think it was warranted."
Opinions were different on the other side of the benches, which aren't separated by any glass in the old rink.
"It happened so fast, and you don't even really think," Somma said. "You just kind of react. Tensions are high. They have some guys that are obviously at that point in the game where it's do or die. They either make the comeback or we take over the game. Emotions run high. That's part of hockey. It's an emotional game."
The donnybrook came in the middle of a second period the Buckeyes dominated. Elkins scored at 2:20 with a wrister from the slot and made it 3-0 at 9:31 by following Hunter Bishop's shot with a goal.
Bailen answered 28 seconds later but Bartkowski's power-play shot pinged the crossbar and went in to make it 4-1 at 12:18. Ohio State had gone seven games without a power-play goal before that tally.
After the fight, OSU capitalized on the ensuing power play with a goal at 19:08 when Sims' shot sneaked through Spratt's legs.
"We kept answering," Markell said. "When they answered with that fourth goal, I thought that was huge for us."
Spratt, a senior, was pulled for Nick Eno to start the third period, but Eno gave up the goals to Elkins and Picard. Elkins' unassisted tally gave him his first-ever hat trick at home during his final game in Columbus.
"I didn't even think of it," he said of it being his final home game, "and I heard them announce it over the system and I was like, ‘Great way to end it.'"
The fifth-seeded Buckeyes (22-12-4) start their best-of-three series with the fourth-seeded Nanooks on Friday.
Notes: Carlson made saves on 28 of 29 shots to earn his 20th win of the year. … John Albert, Boots and Zac Dalpe all had two assists. … Dalpe and Bartkowski were restored to the lineup after being held out in the opener. … Elkins leads the team with 18 goals on the year. … Elkins and Bishop were each plus-4. … Ohio State scored 24 goals in four games this year against the Falcons and the Buckeyes now have 23 goals in their last four games.