A bit of a different game here in round two as the Buckeyes and Nanooks played a much tighter game. While it was a disappointing outcome, as a fan of the game of hockey it was a phenomenal game to watch overall. A lot of back and forth action, very evenly matched between these two teams.
Ohio State did a lot of the little things right countering the Nanooks offensive attack from the night before. They didn't allow forwards around the net and did a good job keeping the road clear in front of Hjelle. With sticks and bodies in the passing lanes, the Nanooks couldn't get much going in the offensive zone for the majority of the night. The Nanooks did have one such event, where they were able to keep it in the zone for an extended shift, but an untimely penalty to Tyler Morley after that 5 minute major seemed to drain momentum.
Coach Ferguson echoed a lot of those sentiments in the post-game press conference that penalties didn't only hurt them with the disadvantage in man power, but they were also a huge momentum drain. In close games like that, momentum really is a huge factor when you're sustaining offensive pressure then a penalty gets whistled down and all of a sudden you have to reel back and defend for two minutes.
The penalties always take their fair share of controversy, but I thought it was a pretty evenly called game. The Nanooks seemed to take the brunt of it through the middle of the game. But the Nanooks did have a few chances in the first period that they weren't able to capitalize on, but credit again to the Buckeyes for playing it right.
There was that 5 minute major to Nolan Youngmun that was pretty borderline. He got 5 and a game for a contact to the head call just outside the blue line by the Ohio State bench. It was a hard hit, but I thought it was clean. Standing across the ice from it, from my view it was a shoulder to shoulder hit that unfortunately caused the Buckeye player to hit his head on the glass. The other unfortunate side of it was the hit was right at the whistle. But when you have a guy already lined up, you can't really deviate from the hit just a split second after you hear the whistle. If it was me calling the game, it would have been 2 for boarding. Not 5 and a game. Nolan plays hard, he hits hard, and he can be pretty fun to watch. The other side to that coin is that these types of calls can happen to these guys and its not going to be at the most opportune time. And in a 0-0 game at that point, it put the team at a disadvantage that they just couldn't kill off as Ohio State's Tanner Fritz put one home after he was left alone on the wing.
Fortunately, the Nanooks were able to get one back later in the period as Andy Taranto fired an absolute rocket from just inside the blue line that beat Hjelle high on the glove side, rang the cross bar and dropped in behind goaltender. Honestly one of the nicest shots you'll ever see in a hockey game, it was just amazing.
That goal made it 1-1 headed into the 3rd period, continuing the excitement of an already great battle. But Ohio State popped in two more quick goals just a minute and 40 seconds apart to pull ahead 3-1, a lead that proved insurmountable. It was a good effort and a hard fought game with a disappointing outcome, which essentially paraphrases coach Ferguson's sentiments in his post game press conference speech.
The 'Nooks head out on the road Monday night headed for Sault Ste. Marie to play their final road series in the CCHA against Lake Superior State. The guys will fly to Detroit and get a practice and a motivational tour in at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday before taking the 5 hour bus ride north on Tuesday evening.
From a standings perspective, Ohio State is the final team under consideration that the Nanooks will face this season. Alaska currently sits at 15th in the Pairwise standings, and a bit less volatile to fall at this point as long as they win. As coach Ferguson pointed out, the rankings and the Pairwise polls don't matter too much if you're not winning hockey games. These last three series' will be a good test to see if the Nanooks can string a few more wins together and carry another win streak into the playoffs. The fortunate side is, all three are very favorable matchups.
All good points to keep eyes on as we move towards the final game of the season down in Anchorage. Until next week, GO 'NOOKS!