Central Collegiate Hockey Association champion Miami scored five unanswered goals to defeat the Buckeyes 6-2 in front of 3,141 in Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio, giving them a 1-0 lead in the team's best-of-three series in the league quarterfinals.
The RedHawks played better in both ends of the ice Friday night, and Miami's most prominent advantage will be a hard one for the Buckeyes to overcome in trying to capture the next two games.
"I thought we got outmuscled," OSU head coach John Markell said. "Every puck to them matters. They go into a battle with a purpose. Our guys, if you take a slight chance that they might not, it's not going to work for you, and that's what you call getting outbattled."
If there's ever a night not to be outbattled, it will come Saturday night when the teams rematch. With a loss, the eighth-seeded Buckeyes (14-17-8) would lose the series and see their disappointing 2010 campaign come to a close.
"They use the expression back against the wall," said junior Hunter Bishop, who scored both Buckeye goals. "Tomorrow, you're basically facing death, for a lack of a better word. Our season can be over. The coaches don't really have to say anything at this point in the year. Guys have to look in the mirror and decide if they want this to be it or if we want to keep playing."
Even a rededicated effort might not be enough. Second-ranked Miami is 4-0-1 against the Buckeyes this year with three of the wins by four or more goals. The RedHawks (25-5-7) outshot OSU 42-28 on this night and showed few chinks in the armor that allowed them to dominate the CCHA this year.
Still, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi expects a battle between the two heated rivals Saturday night.
"You have to come to play tomorrow night because they're going to play and they're going to give everything they have and we have to match that – and execute," Blasi said.
Execute is exactly what Miami did in the opener – at a level the Buckeyes have a hard time reaching. Andy Miele had four points, including two goals, while Carter Camper had two tallies, Jarod Palmer had a goal with two helpers and Tommy Wingels had two assists.
All of those players except for Camper are 2010 first- or second-team All-CCHA honorees, and they showed why.
Camper broke a 2-all tie and netted the game winner 6:08 into the second with an unstoppable power-play wrist shot from the left point that snuck into the very top right corner of Dustin Carlson's goal.
With the teams then skating 4-on-4, Palmer took a pass in the right circle from Miele and unleashed a mirror image of that shot – buried into the far corner, in the proverbial top shelf where mama keeps the cookies – to double the lead at 14:04.
Miele then provided the coup de grace on the power play at 16:28, taking the puck at the right point, evading Mathieu Picard with a shake, dangling around Sean Duddy to get the slot and then scoring past Carson to make it 5-2.
"Those are things you can't teach, obviously," Blasi said. "When you put those guys out there, they can create things that sometimes aren't there for us average hockey players. Miele does that all the time and so do Palmer and Camper."
The RedHawk run was aided by a five-minute spearing major and game misconduct taken by OSU co-captain Peter Boyd at 12:51 while the Buckeyes were on the power play.
"You're going to get hit in this game, and to retaliate like that, obviously it isn't good," Markell said. "We paid dearly for it."
Carlson was pulled for momentum's sake after the Miele goal having stopped 22 of 27 shots for backup Cal Heeter. Alden Hirschfeld scored with 2:48 left to set the final score.
Ohio State actually led 2-1 after a period thanks to Bishop's two tallies. Miami scored first at 11:32 when Miele tapped in at the right post to conclude a 200-foot rush against the Buckeyes' fourth line, but Bishop tied the score just 46 seconds later when John Albert's centering pass hit the junior's body as he crashed the net and trickled behind Miami goalie Cody Reichard.
With that, the Buckeyes started buzzing, and Bishop got his 14th goal of the year and fifth in two games at 18:28 with a quick, hard shot from the right circle.
"I was fortunate enough to get a couple of lucky bounces tonight but we're going to need a lot more tomorrow night," Bishop said.
OSU went into the break feeling good about itself, but a turnover allowed Camper to score his first of the game just 17 seconds into the second period. Shortly thereafter, Miami took control.
"To give them back the momentum right away wasn't good in the second period, especially on an innocent play like that," Markell said. "That's what happens. Then they get on a roll. Bad penalty, their power play goes to work, and it's taxing."
On the other side of the coin, the Buckeyes' PP was 0 for 4 in the second as Miami pulled away.