Ohio State was more than happy to be the beneficiary.
Fighting Irish goaltender Mike Johnson gamely tried to play on a torn meniscus suffered Friday night but was way off his game, ceding four first-period goals to the Buckeyes as the OSU Ice Rink rocked. The final score ended up 8-2, giving the Buckeyes (14-16-6) a 2-0 series win in a first-round CCHA playoff series and moving them on to the league quarterfinals next weekend.
"It was one of those nights where the shots you were taking were just going in," OSU forward Sergio Somma said. "It happens sometimes. Who knows what the reason was, but we were getting some good opportunities and they were going in."
Hunter Bishop had his first career hat trick for the Scarlet and Gray and added two assists for a five-point night, while Somma added two goals and Chris Reed had a career-high four assists. Eleven Buckeyes had points and junior goalie Dustin Carlson was on top of his game, making a career-high 47 saves.
"I don't think it was an 8-2 game," OSU head coach John Markell said. "I thought it didn't feel like that coaching it, but our goaltending came up big and I thought that was the difference in the game, plus the PK and we scored some timely goals."
There's no doubting it was an odd contest all the way through. ND (13-17-8) carried the possession advantage and outshot the Buckeyes 49-25 but trailed the whole way as Ohio State posted the four-spot in the first. OSU also spent 11 minutes of the second period shorthanded, giving up a 5-on-3 and also a major checking from behind penalty that earned junior defenseman Corey Toy an ejection.
Through it all, the only constant was the Buckeyes' scoring. Matt Bartkowski got things rolling 3:36 into the game, netting a power-play tally after a nifty give-and-go with Kyle Reed. Just 24 seconds later, Somma's shot on a rush from the left wing went off Johnson and into the top corner.
Senior Mathieu Picard – off a dazzling assist by Chris Reed after the defenseman held off two Fighting Irish at the point before dropping a pass to Picard – and C.J. Severyn added goals in the second half of the period to cap a frame in which ND outshot the Buckeyes 15-9.
"I thought we came out really well," Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson said. "We were rolling a little bit and the first time they come down and shoot the puck on net it goes in. That's deflating."
Johnson was replaced by senior Tom O'Brien for the start of the second, and Notre Dame looked as though it might get back into it with a 5-on-3 goal 46 seconds into the period from Calle Ridderwall.
However, the OSU penalty kill took over from there, with the Buckeyes blocking seven shots in the frame and watching two more hit the post while Carlson made 16 saves.
"We did a great job today on the PK," said Chris Reed, who was plus-5. "I don't know how many shots we blocked but it had to be over 15 or 20. They were blocking everything from the point."
Toy's penalty gave ND a five-minute power play with 6:59 to go in the period, but instead Ohio State scored when Bishop raced the length of the ice and found the top corner.
He added another in the waning seconds of the frame, then completed his hat trick with 2:35 to go with a 4-on-4 tally deflected in off a pass from Somma.
"It was kind of funny, we were on the 4-on-4 and Serge looked back at coach and said ‘Put me and Bish out there,' because we both had two," Bishop said. "As soon as he got the puck there about the top of the circles, he even looked back and said ‘Bish, let's go.' I just went to the net, put my stick on the ice and I have to give it to Serge, he put it right where it needed to be."
Somma and Notre Dame's Christiaan Minella also had scored earlier in the third, but the final frame was mostly academic – and wasn't even as rough and tumble as the physical second, though Ridderwall was given a 10-minute misconduct with 5:03 to go.
Up next, the eighth-seeded Buckeyes appear to have a return engagement in the quarterfinals with No. 2 Miami, against whom they finished the regular season.
"I thought Notre Dame played really well, we just scored some timely goals, and that might be the same type of thing with Miami," Markell said, already looking ahead. "If we can score some timely goals and play good defensive hockey and smarter hockey than what we played here tonight and get some goaltending, you have to hope for that."