ST. PAUL- With the way Michigan State and Ohio State have been playing against one another all season, sixty minutes have not been enough. So could Thursday night's game end any other way?
Freshman defenseman Drew Brevig won the game for the Buckeyes 4:33 into overtime for a 2-1 win to keep his team's season alive.Teammate Tanner Friz had a goal and two assists for Ohio State, who will play top seed Minnesota tomorrow night (Friday March 21, 2014) at Xcel Energy Center.
"I don't know if you expected anything different between these two teams. Four games in a row of overtime," first-year Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said. "Two good hockey teams. Two great goaltenders. Just not a lot of difference.
"Fortunately, we got the bounce at the end."
Michigan State, meanwhile, ends 2013-14 with a 11-18-7 record.
"It's obviously real even. The goaltending has been very similar," said Spartans head coach Tom Anastos. "Tonight's game for us kind of epitomized our season, a reflection of our season. We struggled to score goals. When you're scoring three of four goals, we have a chance to win.
"I was really hoping after we got off to that one-goal lead, we could have built on it. We never could get over that hump. That would have been big for us."
It's the fourth time in five games this season that the two teams have gone to the extra frame. The previous three involved a shootout, however, with no charity point in the Big Ten postseason Michigan State and OSU knew that Thursday's game had to have a winner. Oddly, this time around it didn't need the full 5 minutes..
Greg Wolfe kicked off the scoring off for MSU 4:04 into the game. Beginning Thursday with a 5-0 advantage in shots during the opening 5 minutes, Michigan State's senior captain flipped a shot top shelf to beat Buckeyes freshman goaltender Christian Frey.
"We came out pretty slow, but things like that happen" said Frey, an Arlington, TX native who joined OSU mid-season and stopped 26 of 27 shots. "We just kept rolling along. I thought we had a great second, third and overtime."
Ohio State found its legs after going down, finishing the first period with two power plays. It wasn't until late in the second that Rohlik's team was able to solve Spartans sophomore goaltender Jake Hildbrand, though. Junior Tanner Fritz scored his 7th goal of the season off linemate's Anthony Greco rebound.
Just like that it was tied, however, that was not the only shot Hildebrand, who recorded 32 saves Friday, or several Spartans were unable to block.
Brevig, a native of Lakeville (about 15 miles south of St. Paul), was able to shoot the puck through three Michigan State players trying to get in front of an out of position goaltender.
"Yeah, pretty close to home. It was awesome, friends and family supported" said Brevig about scoring the winner in front of his hometown. "Fritzie (Tanner Fritz) made a great play I think he brought some guys with them. I think they had some chaos out front. I think the puck had eyes and found its way through."
For the Buckeyes loom a date with the Gophers tomorrow night. Minnesota and Ohio State have played four times, with UMN taking three of the four (including an outdoor game January 17th). Of course, fittingly, the last time both teams met saw the Buckeyes win...in a shootout.
This time a win gets OSU one step closer to an automatic berth. A loss means the season is over.
"We got to come out hard (Friday)," Frey said. "We can't have the first like we did or we'll be down by a lot more quick. But just keep coming like we were in the second and the third, you know, and I think that we'll be fine."
-Despite the loss, Anastos felt positive about the direction of his team.
"I thought our team, while it doesn't show in our record, has made huge, huge progress in one season from the previous year. We had a huge turnover in our roster the year before after having a lost a lot of players to graduation, one player to the NHL (Torey Krug), he said. "This year, you know, we kind of limped out of the start. We had a couple really key injuries that was hard for our team with not a whole lot of depth to overcome. It took us a while to get going."
-More Anastos: "I look at some of the guys who made an impact in Ohio State's game tonight in their season, and I remember when they were freshmen and sophomores, and watched them get better and better. That junior class made a very significant impact for their team.
"I see players on our team that are just going to get better and make a greater impact as they gain experience."
-Ohio State has come back nine times this season
-Fritz on overcoming the slow start: "Just started playing our game. We were a little bit nervous at the start, a little tentative. I think we just started to get our legs moving, pushed the pace on them, get pucks deep, really pressure their defense."
-MSU's Lee Reimer has points in his last 4 games and eight of his last 11.
-Paid attendance was announced at 7,408. It was less actually.
MICHIGAN STATE 1- Greg Wolfe (13) (Lee Reime4 4:04)
OHIO STATE 1 - Tanner Fritz (7) (Anthony Greco, Curtis Gedig 16:26)
OHIO STATE 2 - Drew Brevig (Tanner Fritz 4:33)
MSU 8 - 9 - 8 - (1) --27
OSU 7 - 12 -9 - (6) --34
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate