When Ohio State rang a shot off the crossbar after 15 seconds against Western Michigan on Friday little did the Buckeyes know that would be one on the few scoring chances in a taut playoff-like game.
With both teams not giving an inch in their battles in the corners and in front of the net they skated to a 1-1 tie in Value City Arena before the Broncos secured the second point by winning the shootout 2-1 in four rounds.
Freshman Tyler Lundey scored the Buckeyes' goal early in the second period before sophomore defenseman Matt Stewart tied it nine minutes later with his first career goal.
"We anticipated a tough game," said Western Michigan coach Andy Murray. "You have two of the better, statistic-wise anyways, defensive teams in the league. It kind of fulfilled those expectations in a 1-1 game.
"Ohio State plays extremely hard. They're on top of the puck. We knew that we'd have to play one of our better games to get points here tonight. We were solid with our game."
Senior Brady Hjelle made 30 saves while his counterpart, sophomore Frank Slubowski, needed to stop only 18 shots.
"They're team plays extremely smart," OSU coach Mark Osiecki said. "They're going to be patient. They're sound defensively, sound positionally."
Junior Alex Szczechura put the Buckeyes (12-12-7, 11-7-5-1 CCHA) ahead after the first inning of the shootout but Mike Leone scored for Western (18-7-6, 14-5-4-2) in the second and Mike Cichy got the winner in the top of the fourth before Lundey was denied.
OSU has lost three straight shutouts and are 1-8 in the past nine over two seasons.
Still, with the point the Buckeyes were able to clinch at least home ice in the first round of the playoffs and also moved into a tie for fourth with Ferris State that would give them a bye into the second round.
The Buckeyes had to weather two penalty kills in the third period, including one where Tanner Fritz and Darik Angeli lost their sticks. At one point Hjelle also lost his and made a save with a defenseman's stick.
"Somehow we battled through it," Osiecki said.
Lundey's fourth goal at the 5:57 mark was the result of transition that saw Ryan Dzingel set up Max McCormick with a blind backhand pass. McCormick fired wide right from between the circles but the puck bounced off the end boards back to Lundey for the stuff.
"I was the center drive there so I kind of new that the puck was going to be going to the net at some point," Lundey said. "Luckily the boards made a good play."
Stewart's equalizer at 14:06 was set up by Leone.
"I was creeping in down the middle and Mike Leone was coming around the net and made a great pass right through the slot to me," Stewart said. "I put it home. It felt good."
Chances were limited after that.
"They play a real structured game," Dzingel said. "They rely on their defense to make plays. We're not going to worry about that. We're going to worry about what we have to do."
Osiecki said the Buckeyes need to take advantage of what is given, "When we had our opportunities we didn't take it. We passed up three 2-on-1 situations where e didn't take shot. You've got to put the puck toward the net."
The teams complete the series at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Value City Arena.