Michigan State got a taste of Ohio State's freshman power when the two teams first met in Columbus. The excellent OSU freshman surged Saturday evening, pushing the No. 15 Buckeyes to a 3-2 victory over Michigan State.
The first period was wildly entertaining, despite Ohio State leading 1-0 through 20 minutes. MSU came out with fire and perhaps played its best period of the month.
Junior forward Erik Middendorf delivered a big check in front of the Spartan bench on his first shift of the night and it helped set the tone for the rest of the match. MSU registered the first two shots on net, but it was the second shot by the Buckeyes that got them on the board.
Defenseman Mason Lohrei, one of a few of OSU’s astonishing freshmen, wristed a shot from the point that tipped off the stick of freshman forward Cam Thiesing, who had his back turned to the net. The puck narrowly soared past senior goaltender Drew DeRidder, softly nicked the inside post and landed in the back of the net four minutes into the period.
Michigan State received two power-play opportunities in the period with neither one being successful. On the second penalty, a holding penalty by freshman forward Georgii Merkulov, junior forward Jagger Joshua amplified some of the enthusiasm brought early from Middendorf and took an extra whack at OSU freshman goaltender Jakub Dobes.
The Buckeyes took exception to the shot by Joshua and absolutely mauled him in front of the net. Thiesing and Joshua both went to the box for their actions and continued to bark at each other to the point where Joshua stood instead of sitting for most of the time while serving his sentence.
Ohio State took a two-goal lead on a score from Merkulov at 5:38 of the second period.
Instead of falling into a lull that MSU typically has done with multiple-goal deficits, the Spartans continued to press and were rewarded on the power play. Freshman defenseman David Gucciardi and sophomore forward Jeremy Davidson played the puck back and forth to each other before Gucciardi finally go an opening. His shot was deflected past Dobes by Middendorf and Michigan State was back in the game in front of a crowd of over 6,000 in East Lansing.
It was Ohio State though that responded with a late goal in the twilight of the second period. Merkulov, again — found some space deep in the MSU zone and fired a shot from a tough angle. DeRidder slid across the crease and got his five-foot-ten, 180-pound frame in position, but death by inches, or centimeters rather, got the best of him. Merkulov's shot ricocheted off the oblique of DeRidder and into the back of the net and the Buckeyes took a 3-1 lead into the final period.
The two teams skated evenly to begin the final period, including a penalty kill that sent senior defensemen Cole Krygier off for holding. MSU immediately received a power play with four minutes to play and gained some momentum to close it. Freshman forward Tanner Kelly, who scored MSU's lone goal Friday night, got Michigan State within one goal with 1:13 to play.
It was too little, too late though and Ohio State escaped with the 3-2 victory.
Michigan State is inactive next weekend before starting the final month of the regular season with two games in the Twin Cities.
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