Well, things could have gone better for the Ohio State men's hockey team. The Buckeyes were taken down by the No. 16 Bowling Green Falcons, 6-3, in the season opener at Value City Arena in Columbus.
The Bucks looked to capitalize on their youthful energy and momentum gained from their strong play toward the end of last season, but fell straight down the well within the first few minutes on Friday night. Bowling Green showed why they're in the upper echelon of NCAA hockey teams by scoring at 2:44 of the first period on a Jakob Reichert tally and then adding another at 8:05 by Kevin Dufour. On the bright side, Buckeye junior David Gust kept up his brilliant play from the Big Ten tournament and scored on a breakaway off a Josh Healey outlet pass to cut the lead to 2-1 at 14:57 of the first. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Bucks had their shot total doubled up, 14-7, in favor of Bowling Green in the first.
In the second period, well, OSU outshot Bowling Green, 10-7. That was about the only thing that went right (and that was probably only due to score effects) as the Falcons scored an unassisted goal at 11:44 by John Schilling and added another at 16:02 from Ben Murphy.
Going down 4-1 into the third period, where most teams are notoriously hard to come back on, did not set a high likelihood of comeback for the Bucks but Nick Schilkey got on the board at 2:06 on a powerplay goal with assists from Anthony Greco and Victor Bjorkung. But the Bucks couldn't get any closer before having to pull the goalie late in the third. That allowed Bowling Green to add an empty netter at 17:15 to make it 5-2. It looked all but over before Schilkey struck again on another assist from Bjorkung, with Luke Stork picking up the secondary helper.
That kind of production was sorely lacking from the blueline last season and if Bjorkung can step up to this degree, the OSU offensive ceiling just grew about three sizes. Anyway, the Bucks wouldn't get any closer as Bowling Green added a second empty net goal at 18:28 of the third to put the game away.
Even with Bowling Green dominating on the scoreboard for most of the game, OSU still ended up outshot 35-30 and basically played even with the Falcons in that regard despite Bowling Green's fast start. That doesn't speak well to the play of the Buckeyes. Score effects generally dictate the team falling behind controlling play as the leader plays more defensively, but that didn't happen last night to any noticeable degree.
Christian Frey, clearly the superior OSU goalie last season, got the start and only made 29 saves on 33 shots, for a mediocre .879 save percentage. That's still higher than Matt Tomkins' season number from last season so it shouldn't cost him any playing time. The defense just has to be more solid in front of him and suppress more shots. Then he has to stop them.
The Bucks were badly beaten, but with bright spots coming from Schilkey, Gust and Bjorkung, OSU will look to even out the home and home series in the rematch at Bowling Green tonight at 7:37pm.