Ohio State bucks Notre Dame, sweeps weekend series
Justin Schuver | Monday, January 17, 2005
Saturday was just one of those nights for the Irish – nights they’ve had far too much of this season, when nothing seemed to go their way.
Irish defenseman Brock Sheahan received the puck at the top of the left circle with a wide-open look at the goal during a power play and the score 2-1 in favor of Ohio State. He reared back and ripped what very well could have been the game-tying goal, only his stick broke.
For a team that has been having so many problems offensively, this strange occurrence seemed fitting.
Offensively, the Irish have been dismal in their last several efforts, and the team’s glaring problem reared its ugly head both Friday and Saturday night, as the Irish dropped both games to Ohio State, 4-1 and 3-1.
Things opened up fairly well on Friday night, as the Irish found themselves on the better end of a 5-on-3 power play.
15:52 into the first period, Cory McLean found Wes O’Neill open at the blue line, and O’Neill slapped one in from the point to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. The sophomore defenseman O’Neill leads the Irish in goals for the season with seven.
However, the Irish lead did not last long.
Going into the weekend against the Irish, the Buckeyes were scoring on roughly 20 percent of their power plays – and it did not take too much time to prove the strength of this aspect of their game.
At 18:53 of the first period, Irish defenseman Noah Babin was called for tripping. The Buckeyes wasted no time, with forward Tom Fritsche scoring on goalie Dave Brown from the near right circle just 23 seconds later.
Nate Guenin’s even-strength goal at 10:22 of the second period gave the Buckeyes a 2-1 lead.
The Buckeyes’ success on the power play continued in the third period, when Notre Dame’s Victor Oreskovich was called for high sticking 15:33 into the period. Ohio State’s forward Bryce Anderson set up on the right circle and scored on a one-timer from Fritsche to make the score 3-1.
“We did a good job on the penalty kill and unfortunately it’s not going to look like it because there is going to be three or four goals on the power play,” Irish coach Dave Poulin said. “The last one the kid gets his stick lifted from behind, the other one the penalty is almost over, and the kid throws it up blind.”
At 17:54 in the third period, Sheahan was penalized for slashing, and true to form, Ohio State again took advantage when Matt Beaudoin scored off his own rebound to put the game out of reach.
After Friday’s game, Poulin addressed the problems that the team is having offensively.
“We are a pretty good defensive hockey team that right now has got some kids that are struggling in their beliefs to score goals,” Poulin said. “It’s going to happen again, but it certainly can’t come soon enough for this coach or this team.”
Unfortunately, the Irish offensive problems have had a negative effect on the team’s defense.
“I think it gets to a point where you’re up on your toes and your trying to do whatever you can to score a goal and you leave yourself vulnerable defensively,” Poulin said.
The problems continued on Saturday, as the Irish again struggled to find a groove offensively until it was a little too late.
The Buckeyes came out aggressive and continued to prove why they are recognized for being strong on the power play.
Early in the game, the Irish were whistled for having too many men on the ice.
At the 8:28 mark, Sean Collins made the Irish pay for that miscue, finding Rod Pelley, who scored to give Ohio State a 1-0 lead.
Ohio State tacked on another goal midway through the second period, as Fritsche made a beautiful pass from behind the net to set up a backhand shot from in close by Anderson.
Notre Dame responded midway through the third period, as Josh Sciba scored off a rebound in front of the net.
Sciba’s goal seemed to rejuvenate the Irish intensity.
“Confidence is a very fragile thing,” Poulin said. “You can see when we score a goal in the third period, all of a sudden not only the guy who scored the goal is confident, but the whole team is confident.”
Despite their inspired play down the stretch, the Irish could not find a way to score a tying goal, and the Buckeyes tacked on an empty net goal with eight seconds remaining.
“There were a few opportunities tonight, there were more scoring chances than we’ve had clearly,” Poulin said.
Once again, senior Morgan Cey played beautifully in the goal for the Irish, making 27 saves in the losing effort.
“For now, all I can do is come in to the rink every day and work my hardest and give my team a chance to win ever night, so that’s all I’m trying to do,” Cey said. “We’ll take any kind of momentum we can get. Josh’s goal there in the third really lifted our spirits, and we need little things like that to get our confidence going.”
Cey has now allowed eight goals in the team’s last five games, following his 27-save performance Saturday night.
“He’s really good,” Poulin said, with a slight smile on his face.
Notre Dame would love to now take the confidence that came from the last half of the third period Saturday into this week, when they play Tuesday against Michigan Tech and next weekend against Wisconsin in consecutive league games.