Feb. 7, 1997

Ohio State Moves Ahead Of Irish With Crucial 5-3 Win

Season series and possible CCHA Tournament berth on the line in Saturday’s matchup

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Senior left wing Chad Power had a hand in Ohio State’s first three goals and the Buckeyes weathered a second-period Notre Dame comeback to defeat the Irish, 5-3, in Central Collegiate Hockey Association action Friday before a sellout crowd (2,667) at the Joyce Center. The win vaults Ohio State one point in front of the Irish in the race for the eighth and final CCHA Tournament spot.

OSU (8-22-0, 6-15-0 CCHA) picked up its second big road win in as many weeks, after pulling off a 3-2 upset recently at Michigan State. The Buckeyes now stand alone in eighth place, with Alaska Fairbanks (5-18-0) falling into the cellar of the 10-team league after losing 6-3 at Bowling Green on Saturday.

Notre Dame’s hopes for postseason play hinge strongly on tomorrow’s series finale vs. the Buckeyes (both teams then will have five games remaining). The winner of Saturday’s Notre Dame-OSU game would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker should the teams be finish with the same number of points in the CCHA standings (Notre Dame won, 3-0, at OSU on Oct. 25).

If the teams play to a tie on Saturday, the tiebreaker will revert to each team’s record vs. the league’s top seeds (in descending order). Based on the current standings, OSU would get the nod under the second tiebreaker due to its recent win at fourth-place MSU (12-5-3). Notre Dame has yet to beat any of the league’s top-four teams but owns two wins over fifth-place Bowling Green (9-10-3), which is now just six points behind MSU. Notre Dame also has played to a tie vs. sixth-place Western Michigan (8-8-4), which posted a 5-1 win at MSU on Friday to move within seven points of the Spartans.

The Irish again skated without one of their top defensemen, as freshman Tyson Fraser missed his fourth straight game due to a lingering shoulder injury. The Notre Dame comeback effort was further slowed by the loss of senior defenseman Ben Nelsen, who was whistled for a hitting from behind, five-minute major penalty with 17:20 remaining in the game. The penalty carried with it a game misconduct penalty, forcing the veteran Nelsen to miss the remainder of the game and leaving the Irish with five defensemen for the remainder of the game (junior Justin Theel has missed all but the first two games this season, due to a career-ending back problem).

OSU scored two quick goals in the opening moments of the second period to surge ahead, 3-0, but the Irish answered with two goals of their own in the ensuing seven minutes. The hosts dominated the rest of the second period, holding the Buckeyes to just three shots in the final 16 minutes of the period while racking up a 12-5 shot advantage in the second 20 minutes. But OSU quickly reclaimed the momentum, as Pierre Dufour scored just 40 seconds into the third period for a 4-2 Buckeyes lead. Nelsen then was whistled for his major penalty a minute later but the Buckeyes could not convert on the five-minute power play , keeping the Irish comeback hopes alive. OSU’s Hugo Boisvert then scored his second goal of the game with 10 minutes remaining but Notre Dame’s Brian Urick lit the lamp just 41 seconds later, providing the final margin.

Dufour’s goal was the most memorable of the game, as he took a pass from sophomore Chris Richards and skated down the right side before tucking a perfectly-placed shot into the upper right corner of the net, stunning the comeback-minded Irish. Boisvert then pushed the lead back to three goals after picking off an Irish pass and Urick netted his 12th goal of the season, after successive shots from freshman defenseman Sean Seyferth and senior Terry Lorenz.

After allowing OSU to score on its first two shots of the second period, the Irish finally found the net at the 5:24 mark, when junior Steve Noble set up freshman Ben Simon on the power play. Noble won a battle at the back boards and slid a pass to the outside edge of the right circle. Simon took the pass and looked for his opening before depositing a wrist shot over Aho’s left shoulder, cutting the lead to 3-1.

The Irish struck again less than five minutes later. Sophomore Craig Hagkull picked off an OSU pass and quickly fired a pass to the right wing for a streaking senior Tim Harberts. Aho skated out to challenge Notre Dame’s leading career scorer and Harberts whistled a shot through the legs of the OSU goaltender for his 44th career goal and 92nd point (10:03).

OSU had scored twice in the first four minutes of the second period to surge to a 3-0 lead. Freshman Eric Meloche set up the first of those goals, after skating down the right side and wrapping around the goal before sliding the puck back out to the blueline. OSU junior defenseman Taj Schaffnit gathered in the pass near the right point and quickly scooped the puck towards the slot for Power, who took the puck in stride the near the left post and skated across the crease before tucking a shot into the right side of the net (1:05).

The Buckeyes stretched to a three-goal cushion minutes later, when junior defenseman Dan Cousineau sent a pass from the left point to the back boards for Power. Freshman Hugo Boisvert was filling the middle and Power slid a pass around Eisler’s glove side, with Boisvert one-touching a shot past the Irish goaltender (3:26).

OSU scored first at the 12:26 mark of the opening period, when Power stole the puck from Irish freshman forward Joe Dusbabek and broke free on a breakaway, faking to his left before beating Eisler to the glove side.

Power now has 17 goals and 34 points for the season, two more than his point total from the previous three seasons combined.

The Irish nearly scored a shorthanded goal nine minutes into the game, when Lorenz picked off a pass in the OSU defensive zone and dropped the puck for senior defenseman Ben Nelsen, who one-touched a rising shot from the top of the right circle. Buckeyes goaltender Ray Aho, who at 5-7 is one the shortest goalies in the CCHA, saved the shot off his chest but the puck bounced over his head before landing in front of the left post. Lorenz then swept in from the left side and attempted to poke the puck in the net, but the puck trickled along the goalline before being cleared past the right post.

Sophomore Neal Johnson had a chance to tie the game with two minutes left in the opening period, after intercepting an outlet between the circles. Johnson skated into the slot and faked Aho to the stick side before sliding the puck to the right and flicking a shot on net. But Aho recovered in time to make the glove save and preserve the shutout.

NOTES: After tomorrow, Notre Dame plays twice at Michigan, has a home-an-home weekend vs. Western Michigan and wraps up the regular season at home vs. MSU. Ohio State plays its final five games at home, vs. WMU, Bowling Green, MSU, WMU again and Michigan … Noble now has points in six of the last eight games and in each of the last eight in which the Irish have scored.

OHIO STATE (8-22-0, 6-15-0 CCHA)         1   2   2   -   5NOTRE DAME  (8-20-1, 5-15-1 CCHA)        0   2   1   -   3      1st - OSU 1. Power 16 (Richards), SH, 12:26.2nd -    OSU 2. Power 17 (Schaffnit, Meloche) 1:05;  OSU 3. Boisvert 9 (Power, Cousineau) 3:26;  ND 1. Simon 4 (Noble), PP, 5:24;  ND 2. Harberts 5 (Hagkull) 10:03. 3rd - OSU 4. Dufour 10 (Richards) 0:40;  OSU 5. Boisvert 10 (unassisted) 10:18;  ND 3. Urick 12 (Lorenz, Seyferth) 10:59.Shots on goal: ND 9-12-4/25, OSU 14-5-9/28. Saves: ND (Eisler)13-3-7/23, OSU (Aho) 9-10-3/2. Power Play: ND 1-for-5, OSU 0-for-4.  Penalties: ND 10 for 39:00, OSU 10 for 28:00.

Ohio State Coach Markell

On starting over: “We cut off the season, as of last weekend, and this is a whole different team right now. The freshmen have matured, the upperclassmen are a step up and are bigger leaders.”

On the second period success: “We just kept putting pressure on them. We had good depth with our forecheck and we were reading passes well. We were cutting them off on their second pass. They also had a few turnovers.”

On difference between now and the last game with ND: “In October, we got outshot 15-30. (The teams) aren’t (as) different (as) that. We are 25 games more mature. I find that, when they go home for Christmas, they come back with more structure. They come back with better attitudes. Another thing is that Aho is playing very well right now.”

Notre Dame Coach Dave Poulin

On tonight’s play: “That’s not responding, that’s what that is. It’s not accepting the challenge that was ahead of us at all and it was evident right from the start … it was our poorest effort of the year.”

“We did have early chances, but we also gave them so many chances that it wasn’t even a five point game. It would have been double-digits if it weren’t for Eisler’s play. It’s difficult to get a read on. We had a good week at practice, we passed the puck extremely well. That sounds like a funny thing to say when you watched the way we passed the puck tonight. I can count a dozen times when we put the puck right on their stick with no one else around. And that’s absolutely mental because we have physical capabilities.”

On tomorrow’s game: “We have to play. You can’t spot a team three and then give them five.”