The Buckeyes shook off a late Alaska goal to come back and win a shootout against the Nanooks in front of 4,272 in Value City Arena, putting a positive spin on a 3-3 tie in which OSU blew a two-goal lead. The way the last four games had gone, no one was about to rain on the Buckeyes' parade.
"I'd like to talk about the better points," head coach John Markell said. "I'm not looking at blowing the leads or anything like that."
"Personally, I don't want to dwell on that as much," sophomore Zac Dalpe, who scored his team-best 16th goal of the year, said in lockstep with his coach.
How much of a pall was lifted on the team – which jumped into ninth place in the CCHA, two points behind eighth-place Lake Superior State – seemed evident following the shootout victory. After stopping Carlo Finucci on the final shot to cap a perfect 3-for-3 performance in the shootout, Buckeye goaltender Dustin Carlson raced toward the bench while enthusiastically pumping his first before being mobbed by his teammates.
"I was just excited," said Carlson, OSU's hard-luck junior. "It doesn't really count on my record, but it's a win, and those are short to come by for me right now."
Thus concluded a game that wasn't for the weak-hearted. After a freewheeling opening that was miles more entertaining than Friday night's snoozefest that Alaska (12-9-9, 9-9-8-4) won 4-1, the game tensed as time went on. Openings were hard to come by for the team's big guns; nine Nanooks finished with a point and eight Buckeyes did so, but none could put together a multipoint evening.
Ohio State (11-15-4, 9-11-4-2) lifted the lid 5:29 into the game, as the third line got on the board when Taylor Stefishen took control of the puck behind the net and fed Kyle Reed at Scott Greenham's left post. The Alaska netminder, nearly impenetrable the night before, made a standout glove save on Reed's opening chance, but the junior batted the rebound out of midair and into the net for his fourth goal of the year.
Only 33 seconds later, Ron Meyers – who eliminated OSU from the CCHA tournament last season – equalized, as his shot popped in the air off Carlson's glove and landed in a scrum in front of the cage for Meyers to drive home from close range.
That exchange typified the night. The goals were scored from in close, and just when it looked like one team had the upper hand, things tipped the other way. Another case in point – the Buckeyes built a 3-1 lead with two goals within two minutes in the second, but Alaska got one back 80 seconds later.
The good news for the Buckeyes was that the quick goals were scored by members of the top two lines, which struggled mightily Friday night. First, Zac Dalpe took a pass from Matt Bartkowski low in the right circle on the power play and lit the lamp behind Greenham at 14:15 of the second, and John Albert scored at 16:04 – long from the right post after a pass from south of the border by Hunter Bishop.
"Maybe long hard looks in the mirror individually, myself included," Dalpe said when asked what changed in 22 hours time for OSU's top scorers. "It's one of those things where you do have an off night every once in a while, but you can't afford to do it this time of the year. So I'm happy with the way we bounced back."
Resiliency was also a strong point for the Nanooks, as Dustin Sather scored 1:20 after Albert's goal thanks to a turnover by Bartkowski. After taking the puck, Sather skated in on Carlson from the right and scored with little disturbance.
"If you spend any time with our team, you can get a feel for how they are as people, and they believe in each other," UA head coach Dallas Ferguson said. "Hockey is weird. You have to stay with it and believe, and they do believe in each other."
In the same vein, Alaska pressed for the equalizer in the third before getting it with 2:59 to go. While on a power play, Scott Enders sent a heavy drive from the right point at Carlson, who made the initial stop but didn't know the rebound had leaked behind him in the crease. Finucci dove in and tied the score just as Carlson flopped behind him to cover.
Overtime was largely uneventful except for a Greenham stop on Sergio Somma – whose new fan club in the OSU student section wore shirts spelling "GO SERGIO" – with a minute to play.
Dalpe hesitated and scored for the lone shootout goal, with Carlson watching Kevin Petovello shoot high, poke-checking Sather and then making a glove save after Finucci ran out of ideas.
"I knew we needed the points as much as anybody else right now, and I was going to do what I had to do to help us get those points," Carlson said.
Notes: OSU was only 1 for 2 on the power play. Friday night, the Buckeyes went scoreless to snap a nine-game power-play scoring streak. … Alaska was 1 for 6 and had the last three power plays. … OSU outshot the Nanooks 34-30. … Alaska fell into a fifth-place tie in the CCHA.