Around the Oval is Eleven Warriors' weekly love letter to Ohio State sports that don't get the coverage they should.
A dramatic 2-1 series victory over Ferris State put the Ohio State Buckeyes men's hockey team in their first CCHA semifinal in eight years. With the CCHA disbanding after this season, it would also be their last – a weekend at the Joe the perfect goodbye to the conference.
Notre Dame was their opponent, a team who had beaten and tied the Buckeyes in the second half of the regular season, just as OSU was starting to gain momentum. They didn't seem to have it in the beginning of this one, as the Irish came flying out of the traps to test goalie Brady Hjelle multiple times in the first few minutes. Against the general run of play, the Buckeyes struck first: Ryan Dzignel exchanged passes with Anthony Greco before giving his team a shocking lead.
Ohio State wasn't ahead for very long as only 54 seconds passed before Peter Schneider tied it for the Irish. After that Notre Dame continued their dominance, outshooting their opponents, 28-12. Luckily Hjelle was having another solid afternoon, but he couldn't continue to play at the same level if they wanted to advance to the final.
But the third period was no different, and Notre Dame's early power-play goal placed them firmly in the driver's seat. Even while chasing the game, the Scarlet & Gray could only muster five shots as the offensive production that had been working so well deserted them. Throwing on the extra attacker late in the game, the Buckeyes were battling in the corner when it was dug out by an Irish forward, and the puck made its way to Jeff Costello, who scored the empty netter to finish off a 3-1 Irish victory and the Buckeyes' season.
It was a disappointing ending to what has been a memorable season for the team, but their coach Mark Osiecki looked through the loss to the positives that got them past their early-season adversity and into the conference final four.
"We're going to look back on our year and reflect on that tough start to the year with some difficult travel, and then we got injury problems right away, right that first weekend, and our guys did a heck of a job to battle through that all year," Osiecki said. "We couldn't be more proud of the way these guys responded to each other, and it's a great step for this program."
What looked early on like a potentially embarrassing final CCHA campaign became a memorable one, thanks in part to the team getting back to full health and newfound goal-scoring prowess which produced three six-goal outputs. There were many contributors to the team's success, but the scoring was certainly led by Ryan Dzingel and Tanner Fritz. Dzingel finished tied for first in conference scoring, and Fritz was only one point behind in second. Goaltender Brady Hjelle — who Osiecki described as the team's MVP — finished second in conference goals against average and save percentage.
Of the men who suited up for Ohio State against Notre Dame on Saturday, there were only two seniors: Hjelle and defenseman Devon Krogh, highlighting the talent that will return to Columbus next year. They will of course be competing in the inaugural season of Big Ten hockey, a conference that will also include former CCHA teams Michigan and Michigan State. Joining from the WCHA are Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Penn State rounds out the competition as they begin only their second season as a varsity hockey program.
It was a damn good year for Ohio State hockey, and the combination of returning talent and a new Big Ten conference will ensure that the next one will be met with formidable anticipation.
Big Ten play finally arrived this past weekend for the Ohio State baseball team. They traveled west for a three-game set with their first conference opponent, Purdue.
On Friday evening it was all Buckeyes who won, 10-1, behind a strong pitching performance from Jaron Long, who went eight innings while only surrendering one run. Outfielder Tim Wetzel once again provided critical offensive output, his four-RBI day highlighted by a triple, his seventh extra-base hit of the season, the amount he finished with last season. First baseman Brad Hallberg also drove in two runs as the Buckeyes compiled eight hits to get their conference schedule off to the perfect start.
Saturday's game went the same way early after four Buckeyes touched home after four innings, and the result was already safe. Brad Goldberg got his third win of the year after allowing one run in five innings. His relief was provided by Ryan Riga, who didn't walk a batter the rest of the way to ease his team to a 8-3 triumph. Hallberg had another three RBI to add to his four the night before, and the team amassed 17 hits overall. The team effort was highlighted by the fact that only three of Ohio State's hitters failed to drive in a run.
The deadly combination of Buckeye hitting and pitching completed the excellent weekend with a 7-0 romp in the second half of Saturday's doubleheader. It started with the top of the Ohio State order, who had five RBI between them. Catcher Greg Solomon was the only visiting batter without a hit but he could take solace in his work with pitcher Brian King, who struck out eight in eight as the Boilermakers only had three hits.
The Buckeyes were due to play Toledo and Ohio this week but both games were canceled due to the weather not heeding the words of Punxsutawney Phil. They're back at it this weekend when they welcome Michigan State for a trio of games.
San Antonio, Texas, was the site of the NCAA Fencing Championships this past weekend, and the Ohio State Buckeyes squad was there to take part in the four-day event. Zain Shaito and Max Stears both ended the first day in sixth, with the team overall sitting in seventh place.
The second day proved very successful, as Marco Canevari became a national champion is the men's epee category. Canevari was the scourge of the Ivy League after he beat Peregrine Badger of Harvard in the semis before defeating Jonathan Yergler of Princeton in the final. Canevari lost to Yergler last year on his way to tying for third, but the tables were turned and the Italian gave Ohio State their first and only championship of the weekend.
The early rounds saw a strong showing from the ladies as two Buckeyes finished in second: Mona Shaito in women's foil and Alison Miller in women's sabre. Combined with a sixth-place finish from Katarzyna Dabrowa in women's epee, the team moved up another spot into fourth as the final day of competition approached. Shaito and Stears were in sixth again, while the other Buckeye competing in epee, Daniel Tafoya, finished seventh after notching 14 victories. At the end of the second day, Ohio State had moved up two spots into fifth heading into the final two days which were to be contested by the women.
Mona Shaito made it all the way to the semifinals but lost, sealing her third-place finish, the highest of any Ohio State woman in the competition. Alison Miller finished fifth after barely failing to make it to the last four, while it was the same story for Dabrowa as she finished sixth in a category she had won a year before. At the end of competition, Ohio State had 146 points, which put them in fourth place, their 12th straight top-five finish. Well done to all the ladies and gents who competed and maintained the school's excellent fencing tradition.
stieber the repeater
Last week was also NCAA championship time for the Ohio State wrestling team, who voyaged to Des Moines, Iowa, for the competition.
The Buckeyes were in seventh heading into the final day Saturday, with three wrestlers still in the competition. First it was sophomore Hunter Stieber in the 141-pound category who was in the semifinal against Edinboro's Mitchell Port. Stieber lost a close matchup, 7-6, but won twice in a row to secure a third-place finish. Stieber led the team in major decisions during the season and only lost once the whole year.
After that there was redshirt junior Nick Heflin, who faced a wrestler he won and lost against during the regular season in Logan Storley, but the Minnesota man was able to come out on top and that put Heflin in the fifth-placed match. His opponent was another familiar face, Michael Evans of Iowa, who had beaten Heflin during the season. This time the Buckeye wasn't to be denied, though, and Evans was pinned in a little over two minutes to secure Heflin's fifth-place finish.
Finally there was the Buckeyes' top wrestler: No.1 seed Logan Stieber, who was in the final of the 133-pound category against Iowa's Tony Ramos, the man who Stieber beat in the Big Ten final. Once again the redshirt sophomore from Monroeville was unstoppable, as he topped Ramos, 7-4, to defend his national title and finish the season unbeaten. Overall the Buckeyes finished in sixth with 59.5 points, while champions Penn State finished with a total of 123.5