The Big Ten crown is Ohio State’s to lose. In spite of injuries to key players, the Buckeyes were able to open up a commanding lead on the conference field thanks to Saturday’s series sweep-clinching shutout of No. 11/13 Notre Dame.
|Scoring by Period||1||2||3||Final|
|No. 11/13 Notre Dame||0||0||0||0|
|No. 4 Ohio State||0||1||1||2|
The game began slowly with few shots generated by either side. These were handled by OSU’s Tommy Nappier and Notre Dame’s Cale Morris. The action picked up quickly in the second period. Austin Pooley tipped a shot past Morris before a minute ticked off the clock.
The goal brought a spike in intensity for both teams. They volleyed high-energy rushes back and forth. Nappier made several big stops in the exchange before the Irish appeared to beat him. But upon further review, the officials deemed that a Notre Dame player willfully encroached on Nappier’s ability to make the save.
|Buckeye Goal Scorers (Assists)||Pd||Time|
|Austin Pooley (Matt Miller, Mason Jobst)||2||0:53|
|Carson Meyer (Dakota Joshua, John Wiitala)||3||15:16|
The would-be tying goal was waved off but the Irish kept up their pressure. Soon they drew the Bucks into a penalty. The buzzing visitors looked determined to regain the goal they’d lost. However, Ohio State’s penalty killers stepped up in a big way and shut them down.
This was particularly laudable as the PK unit made do without injured defensive leader Sasha Larocque. Tanner Laczynksi also remains on the Bucks’ list of walking wounded along with Gustaf Westlund. With so many key contributors on the shelf, Ohio State needed others to fill the gaps.
Pooley is one player who did that. Steve Rohlik slid him up to skate with Mason Jobst and Quinn Preston. The fourth-liner responded by scoring two goals in the series. Freddy Gerard was also very visible tonight after notched a pair of goals in the opener.
The trio of John Wiitala, Dakota Joshua, and Carson Meyer was another notable group on Saturday. They had several of Ohio State’s better chances. Late in the third period, they boosted the Buckeye lead to 2-0. You’ll be forgiven if you missed it. You were probably blinking.
Meyer’s goal continued a recent trend of native Buckeyes coming through in the clutch. Five of the six goals scored by OSU in this series came from Ohio-born players. Rocky River’s Gerard scored two last night. Dublin-native Pooley potted two for the series. And Meyer, Powell’s favorite son, chipped in one.
With nothing to lose the Irish rolled the dice and went for the extra attacker with about three minutes to play. But the Buckeye defense was stout. Nappier polished off his fourth shutout of the season. The sophomore made 30 saves in the win. He boasts a ridiculous 1.64 GAA and .945 save percentage.
Ohio State (17-5-4, 10-3-3-2 B1G) now enjoys an eight-point lead over the Big Ten’s new second place team, Minnesota. With four weeks left in the season, the Bucks have a two-win lead plus two conference games in hand on the Gophers. OSU is on the road next week at Wisconsin before returning home for a showdown with Minnesota.