Buckeyes Start Playoffs With Win

The Ohio State men's hockey team started the playoffs in style, never trailing on the way to a 3-1 win against visiting Notre Dame in the first of a best-of-three series to start the CCHA playoffs. The team's lone senior, Mathieu Picard, did his part and Zac Dalpe added an insurance marker for the Scarlet and Gray.

Just ask Ohio State men's hockey senior Mathieu Picard – playoff hockey can be quite enjoyable.

Of course, it helped that he expressed that opinion Friday night after the first game of a best-of-three CCHA first-round playoff series against Notre Dame. Picard had two goals and Zac Dalpe got his team-best 20th of the year for an insurance marker as the eighth-seeded Buckeyes defeated Notre Dame 3-1 at the OSU Ice Rink.

"It's the last kick of the can so you have to go all out," Picard said. "It was a good night, for sure. It's fun to score. Playoffs is a lot more fun than regular season."

The game wasn't always pretty – in fact, it rarely was – but it was playoff hockey. The checking was tight and opportunities seemed few and far between, especially in the early going as the two teams searched for any space in which to operate. But Ohio State played the better defensive game, limiting the opportunities among Notre Dame's 35 shots and making the most of their 28 on Fighting Irish goaltender Mike Johnson.

"It was a good effort," OSU head coach John Markell said. "I thought our guys competed hard tonight. I thought from Dusty on our, we came to play tonight and so did Notre Dame. I thought it was a good hockey game."

Notre Dame will now need two win the next two or else the ninth-seeded Fighting Irish will see their season end. Ohio State, meanwhile, will continue to keep trying to play its stout defensive game, as goaltender Dustin Carlson had 34 saves and has allowed one goal in his last 125 minutes of action.

Picard got the game-winning goal with 10:28 to play, just minutes after the Fighting Irish had tied the score, when he tapped a centering pass from the right by Patrick Schafer into the open net at the left post.

"I'll take those open nets like the second one," said Picard, whose line with juniors Schafer and Kyle Reed combined for 12 shots.

ND pushed for the tying goal but Dalpe iced it with 4:06 to play, fighting his way up the middle and through two Irish defenders for a breakaway that he deposited over Johnson's glove to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career.

"I don't know where the speed came from on that one," Dalpe joked afterward. "I guess I had the afterburners on – that's what (backup goalie Cal) Heeter said when I came back to the bench. (Over the glove) was a spot that we could exploit a little bit so I utilized it and thank god it went in."

The goal ended a night of frustration for the Buckeyes' top unit of Dalpe, Sergio Somma and Peter Boyd, who got his 24th assist on Dalpe's tally. The three combined for only six shots while matched up against a big Notre Dame defense that features five NHL draft picks.

"They have some big mobile defensemen," Dalpe said. "You think you have the spot, you grab the puck and then all of a sudden he's on you. We knew that coming in that we weren't going to have a lot of time in this rink. I thought we utilized it pretty well though."

Add in the fact that these two defensive teams play styles that match up fairly evenly and it was no surprise the team's seemed to feel each other out through the first period.

The breakthrough came at only 3:37 of the second off of what seemed like an innocent enough rush. But the Buckeyes advanced the puck toward the net and Picard found Schafer's centering pass in a mess of bodies to put past Johnson for just his third goal of the season.

OSU held the advantage into the third thanks to a crucial kill of a 5-on-3 disadvantage that lasted 1:38 near the end of the second period. Notre Dame forward Kyle Palmieri had two shots turned away and Ohio State's John Albert blocked a shot to end the barrage. In between, players like Somma, Schafer, Jeff McNeil, Matt Bartkowski and Sean Duddy laid it all on the line to keep the Fighting Irish at bay.

"From the bench guys were putting their bodies on the line and that's what you need in playoffs," Dalpe said.

Notre Dame tied the score with 13:02 to play, getting a marker after controlling the possession during the opening minutes of the third. The Irish fourth line put together an excellent shift, and sophomore Rich Ryan concluded it with his first career goal and point. After OSU freshman Alex Carlson blocked his first shot from the slot, Ryan fished the puck out of his gear and fired past Dustin Carlson's blocker.

ND also appeared to cut into the OSU lead with 43.8 seconds to play with a power-play marker, but referee Stephen McInchak immediately ruled the Fighting Irish scored off of a hand pass. The net also appeared to be off its moorings before the tally.

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