DETROIT — Desperation comes with any tournament setting. The lose and your season is done mantra is enough to push teams to the brink with every game. For Ohio State and Michigan State, their ticket to the NCAA tournament would likely have to be punched by winning the Big Ten tournament. With a 6-3 win over the Spartans Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena, the Buckeyes moved one step closer to doing just that.
“Well, at this time of year, any time you can come away with a win, certainly your team has done some things right,” Buckeye coach Steve Rohlik said. “I can’t remember the last time we played Michigan State and it hasn’t been an overtime or one-goal game. I’m proud of our group. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re happy that we can live to fight another day.”
Ohio State netted the first two goals a little over two minutes apart from each other. The first goal scorer was Mason Jobst at the 4:09 mark of the period. The First Team All-Big Ten honoree sent a wrist shot up and over the of Ed Minney to give the lead to OSU.
Then, at the 5:44 mark, Second Team All-Big Ten honoree and scoring leader for OSU Nick Schilkey doubled that lead.
Slow starts have plagued the Spartans in the past, and it looked as though that could be the story once again.
“Well, unfortunately it’s tough,” Villiam Haag said on the mentality on the bench after OSU jumped out to a lead. “You go down two goals, it’s an important game. It’s everything or nothing. It’s huge, and it’s important to not panic and to stick to our game. We managed to get a goal and then continue rolling on that.”
Rolling is exactly what the Spartans did. They rallied to send three straight goals past OSU goaltender Matt Tomkins, and take back the lead heading into the break.
The first goal came from Villiam Haag. The senior, off a nice pass from Patrick Khodorenko, was all alone in the slot and sent a shot top right that went past Tomkins. Dylan Pavelek and Sam Saliba followed suit with goals of their own.
The Buckeyes dominated the second and were awarded with a goal. Freshman Brendon Kearney took advantage of the Spartans inability to clear their defensive zone as he collected a loose puck and scored his third of the season.
As the third period began, the Spartans had every opportunity to wright the ship and break the streak of falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. But as fate would have it, the they were unable to capitalize when it mattered most.
“They were either going to score and they were going to get a bunch of momentum, or we were going to have a big kill and build off of that,” Rhett Holland said on what went wrong early in the third period. “They ended up scoring and they got some momentum, and we didn’t do a good enough job at handling that momentum change.”
The Buckeyes exploded for three goals in three minutes in the third period to put this one away. Two of the three were scored by senior David Gust. On the second goal, Gust used his speed to blow around MSU defenseman Anthony Scarsella and sent the puck top shelf on Minney’s short side.
Tanner Laczynski added another goal roughly two minutes later to further extend OSU’s lead.
That would do it for the scoring and Ohio State would go on to end the Spartan’s season for the third time in as many years.
With the loss, Michigan State is still the only team in the Big Ten that has yet to win a postseason game since the conference was formed, and the final regular season record of 7-24-4 is the program’s worst since 1978.
“Didn’t get good enough results,” Anastos said as he reflected on the season. “It’s tough to win in our league. A lot of good teams in our league. We had a very tough schedule. But in the end, no, I’m disappointed with the season and I’m disappointed with how it ended today.”