Once Ohio State and Miami took the ice, the underdog won again.
Sergio Somma scored 6:35 into overtime to keep OSU's hockey season alive, giving the Buckeyes a 5-4 win in Game 2 of a best-of-three CCHA quarterfinal series that was pushed to a third and decisive game Sunday night.
"You live to fight another day," said Somma, who scored his 15th goal. "Now it's a one-game shot, so anything can happen."
With their backs against the wall and knowing a loss would end their campaign, the Buckeyes (15-17-6) had the jump early, fended off a bevy of Miami chances thanks to 42 saves by Dustin Carlson and lastly regrouped from a stunning late RedHawk surge to get the win. It was the first of the year in six tries against the CCHA champions for the eighth-seeded Buckeyes.
"We competed a lot harder tonight," OSU head coach John Markell said. "They force you to raise the level of your play and our guys are capable of it. That's part of what you try to teach the kids is to stay at that level, stay at that intensity, and it can be very gratifying."
Somma's winner – which came after Miami forced the extra period with two goals in the final 3:02 of regulation – was equal parts skill and grit, the type of goal one might expect in a playoff overtime. The Buckeyes earned a 3-on-1 rush, with Peter Boyd sending the puck from the right wall to the crease, where Somma arrived at the right time.
"It happened quick," Somma said. "I was just going hard to the net. Petey got a good shot off the pad. I was going hard and just whacked one in. It wasn't anything special. It was just laying there."
What was special was the impact the goal had on OSU's season. There was a bit of confusion immediately after the goal as Somma took a shot from a RedHawk and players started to scrum, but it quickly became clear the Buckeyes had won and the team celebrated en masse in front of the net.
"I don't think anyone was sitting down on the bench," junior Hunter Bishop said of the buildup to the goal. "That's a goal scorer's goal, so credit to Serge and everyone that was involved in that. I'm very happy with that."
The tally ended a gripping, back-and-forth contest between two intense rivals – one playing to add a league postseason title to its mantle and another battling for its season.
And predictably – given the reality that faced OSU had it not won – the Buckeyes were the early aggressors, outshooting Miami 9-6 in the first and taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
"They came out firing and probably in the big scheme of things they deserved to win the game with the effort they put forth," Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said. "We really had to fight back to just get it into overtime."
Zac Dalpe scored his 21st of the season just 2:21 into the contest on the power play with a wrister from the right circle, but gritty Patrick Schafer's fourth of the year at 17:24 was prettier. The junior was fed through on a half-breakaway by Kyle Reed, holding the puck and firing a backhander over goalie Cody Reichard's shoulder even with a Miami player draped all over him.
Bishop extended the lead to 3-0 in a pivotal sequence. At 5:55 of the second, Bishop was the recipient of a hit from Miami defenseman Steven Spinell that left him shaken up, and Spinell was called for a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind.
Boyd quickly took a penalty, but Bishop returned after being checked out by trainer Jeff Diets and tapped in Dalpe's cross-crease feed with the teams skating 4-on-4 at 6:57.
"He crunched me there from behind," said Bishop, who scored his 15th goal of the year and sixth in three games. "It stung a little bit. Diets came and made sure everything was intact and checked me out. Coach looked over at me and asked if I was ready to go for the 4-on-4 with Dalps. I said absolutely – you're never going to say no to that."
But No. 2 Miami – which faced a three-goal deficit for the first time all year – outshot OSU 19-4 in the second period, and the pressure paid off when Trent Vogelhuber scored at 14:49 off a faceoff win. The Buckeyes' advantage was cut to 3-2 at 18:24 when Pat Cannone skated through the slot to the right and beat Carlson.
Ohio State fended off 4:54 straight of Miami power play time – including two separate 5-on-3s that totaled 1:07 – early in the third, and Matt Bartkowski's power-play goal with 5:05 to play gave the Buckeyes a 4-2 lead and seemed to seal the deal.
That point of view didn't take into account Miami magic, and the RedHawks halved the OSU lead with 3:02 left thanks to a shorthanded goal. Shane Sims couldn't keep the puck in the zone at the left point, giving the RedHawks a 2-on-1 chance that Vincent LoVerde slammed into the cage with ease after a feed from Carter Camper.
When his penalty expired with 1:27 to go, Joe Hartman jumped out of the box and joined a rush with Cannone, who used the big defenseman as a decoy before beating Carlson with a sharp-angle shot from the left with 80 seconds on the clock.
At that, the 3,058 in Steve Cady Arena made it seem as though the roof was about to be blown off, but the Buckeyes got back to the locker room still tied and then played a perfect overtime to live another day.
"Time ended at the right time and it gave us a chance to regroup," Markell said.
The teams now have a day to do so again. Faceoff on the deciding game is set for 7:05 p.m.