Zac Dalpe and Patrick Schafer scored in the third period for the Buckeyes, as Schafer's goal with 1:07 to play earned OSU a crucial 4-2 win at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing.
"The credit goes to the kids," Ohio State head coach John Markell said. "I thought we were pretty resilient against a good hockey club tonight. We won some battles and we made our own puck luck."
Schafer's goal was the ugly one, and anyone familiar with the junior grinder's play wouldn't be surprised. It sure left a smile on the faces of the Buckeyes, though, after Schafer – who was boosted up to the second line after an injury to Hunter Bishop – and linemate C.J. Severyn won a battle below goal line along the boards.
Once he controlled the puck, the Hilliard, Ohio, native wrapped around the net, stuffing the puck between the legs of MSU goaltender Drew Palmisano at his right post to make it 3-2, OSU. Twenty seconds later, Sergio Somma's empty-net goal settled things for good.
"I'm not known to score pretty goals," Schafer, whose goal was just his second on the year, said with a laugh. "I just throw it on net and hope it goes in. I'll take it."
Dalpe's tally, meanwhile, gave Ohio State a 2-1 lead and set up the Buckeyes for success in the third, and his team-best 13th goal of the season sure looked like a beauty when it left his stick 37 seconds into the frame. Instead, replay showed that what looked like a glove-side, power-play snipe from the slot instead took a deflection off an MSU stick and over Palmisano's catcher.
"Like my dad always used to say, any shot is a good shot," Dalpe said, grinning and feigning anger when it was suggested his shot wasn't gunned into the top corner on its own merits. "You just try to put a lot on net. I had nine tonight so one was bound to go in."
Those tallies saved the Buckeyes from a nearly disastrous fate as they battle to stay within shouting distance of fourth place in the league or at least move into the top eight. With the win, OSU (10-13-1, 8-9-1-1 CCHA) moved up to that important eighth spot – four points from fourth – pending other league results.
The Buckeyes outshot Michigan State 47-19 overall and 36-9 during the final two periods, and a loss would have been brutal given the how well the Buckeyes played during the whole weekend including Friday night's 5-2 loss.
But that's exactly the reality OSU stared down midway through the third period when Dustin Gazley converted a rush by putting Daultan Leveille's rebound past Buckeye goaltender Dustin Carlson, canceling Dalpe's goal and knotting the score at 2 with 9:59 to play.
The Buckeyes refused to yield, though, continuing to control play until Schafer's winner.
"There was no panic on the bench this time, whereas at Miami there was a bit of panic," Markell said, referencing a game in which OSU blew a 2-0, third-period lead earlier this season against the then-No. 1 RedHawks. "We were trying to keep it simple. We just had to play a good road game and make them try to come 200 feet, own the blue lines, get it back in the slot and protect your goaltender."
Making his first start since that Miami game, Carlson was game in net, making only 17 saves but serving as a calming influence much of the night. The win allowed him to improve to only 2-8 on the year, but early on he was the victim of little support from the offense.
"It's good to get out of the L column and back into the W column," Carlson said before crediting his defense. "They were playing great in front of me. I mean, we outshot them by at least double. I think I got skimmed by a few, but either way, they played great tonight."
He was bested only by Gazely and Nick Sucharski, with the latter's power-play goal starting the scoring 5:43 into the contest. Corey Tropp tried to pass through the slot from the left halfboards but the pass hit Sucharski's body and went into the net past a befuddled Carlson, who never saw it.
Ohio State tied it 3:14 into the second, this one also coming on the power play, when Shane Sims ripped a slap shot from the center point past Palmisano's glove side.
The Spartan goaltender made 43 saves, giving him at least 30 in his fifth straight game, and was excellent for most of the night. In the end, he was the only thing keeping his squad, which is second in the CCHA, from suffering a more pronounced defeat.
Notes: The Buckeyes finished 2 for 8 on the power play, extending their streak of games with a man-up tally to five. … Both of Schafer's goals this year are game winners, his other one coming at Lake Superior State on Oct. 24. … Ohio State set a season high for shots, the previous best coming in the season's second game when the Buckeyes peppered Quinnipiac with 45. … MSU defenseman Jeff Petry nearly gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead late in the second, but his power-play slap shot rang the crossbar. Despite the fact that the referee immediately signaled no goal, the light went on and the goal horn sounded, forcing the referees to stop play. … The Buckeyes improved to 7-43-3 all-time in Munn.