Friday night, Ferris State cut a two-goal Buckeye lead in half with seven minutes to go and looked to be well on its way to repeating history. The surprisingly spirited 3,336 fans inside Value City Arena suddenly went flat and the Bulldogs found jump that had been missing throughout the opening two-and-a-half periods.
Just as suddenly, disaster was averted for a surging Ohio State team. The Buckeyes earned a 2-on-1 finished off when Peter Boyd's centering pass deflected into the net, giving OSU a 5-3 lead it nursed to the end to capture the first of a two-game set.
"They were coming at us, but I think we stayed positive on the bench and didn't get down on each other," said Boyd, who led the Buckeyes with four points. "That's a big thing with the team lately. I find we're staying positive and keeping each other up. That goes a long way."
The win was Ohio State's fourth in five games since the holiday break and its second straight against a team ranked 10th in the nation. The Buckeyes returned to .500 in the CCHA at 9-9-1-1 (11-13-1 overall), enough to move them into seventh place in the tight standings only three points behind fourth-place Lake Superior State.
Boyd's goal, which was redirected into the net behind Pat Nagle by Bulldogs blueliner Zach Redmond, came with 5:31 to play and gave Ohio State breathing room behind a relentless attack of rubber toward goaltender Cal Heeter from third-place Ferris State (17-8-2, 11-6-2-2).
The Buckeye sophomore made 46 saves on 49 shots – 21 of which came in the final frame – as Ferris State sent the kitchen sink toward goal.
"I thought Cal played well – 49 shots," Markell said. "I thought he played well and made some big saves when he needed to."
The contest wasn't always pretty, as the Buckeyes were occasionally off in the defensive zone and Ferris State was worse. Ohio State ended up getting solid play from two lines, winning the special-teams battle with two power-play goals to FSU's none, and capturing the goaltending battle as Nagel was off his game from the beginning.
"I thought the game kind of ebbed and flowed at certain points, but we took care of our opportunities," Markell said. "We had opportunities to be a little heavier in certain areas and we got ourselves into trouble … but we did a lot of good things out there."
Chief among those good things was score, putting five pucks in on 30 shots. The Buckeyes got the attack going only 3:55 into the game when Zac Dalpe scored his team-best 14th goal from the slot with a backhander and didn't trail the rest of the way.
That top grouping of Dalpe, Boyd and Sergio Somma was on the ice for four of the Buckeyes' five goals. Each had a goal, and they combined for eight points after pooling for 11 in the last contest at Ferris State.
"We've been feeling good and we've been working hard and having fun with each other," Somma said. "We try to talk a lot on the ice and it makes it easier on everybody. We're just going to keep working hard and getting pucks to the net."
After Chad Billins tied the score for Ferris State in the first, Somma put the Buckeyes ahead for good at 13:01 of the first when he fought off Matthew Kirzinger at the left post for a tap-in goal after Boyd centered through the crease.
Chris Reed blasted a power-play score through traffic and past Nagel at 5:44 of the second to make it 3-1, a tally the Buckeye defenseman gave back when his clearing attempt went to Justin Menke, who knuckled one under Heeter's glove midway through the period.
However, Nagel was at fault when the Buckeyes increased the lead to 4-2 on the power play only 2:06 into the third period, as Matt Bartkowski's 55-foot slap shot from the center point somehow went five-hole on the junior netminder who entered with a sterling 1.88 goals-against average.
"I thought in the defensive end of the game we were very slipshod, and it was a bad combination of us being poor defensively and our goaltender having an off night," Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said.
Just when it looked like the Buckeyes were cruising home, Brett Wysopal tucked one under the bar from the slot to make it 4-3 with 7:31 to play, but Heeter turned aside Redmond and Wysopal again in short order before Boyd's goal set the final score.
Heeter was pressed into action again for one final penalty kill in the last two minutes, but the Bulldogs' plethora of shots were more from distance rather than A-grade chances – a common refrain throughout the night.
The teams will met again Saturday night in Value City Arena for a 7:05 p.m. start, and the OSU band will take part in Script Ohio on ice after the first intermission.
Notes: Ohio State has a power-play goal in six straight games. … Since returning from the holiday break, the Buckeyes' power play is operating at a 10-for-29 clip (34.9 percent) while the penalty kill has denied 25 of 29 (86.2 percent) chances. … Nine OSU skaters had points. … Nagel served the third period under a constant verbal barrage from the Buckeye band and student section.