The Ohio State mens hockey team may have been too hungover on Tryptophan from Thanksgiving, as they fell to the No. 6 Nebraska Omaha Mavericks Friday night in Omaha by a score of 3-1.
UNO improved to 10-2-1 with the win on Friday while the Buckeyes fell to just 3-8 on the year. The Bucks hadn't lost since the night before Halloween versus Mercyhurst (though there were two bye weeks thrown in there) and swept Mercyhurst two weekends ago, but just couldn't come through against one of the best teams in the country.
The first period was relatively even, with neither team being able to put one home. Christian Frey got the start for the Buckeyes and shut out the Mavericks through the first frame. OSU got three powerplays in that first period but failed to capitalize on any of them. UNO got one of their own that they couldn't convert on. Shots ended at 8-7 in favor of the Buckeyes, with the significant man advantage time playing a key role influencing those totals.
In the second, Omaha was the first to break through as sophomore defenseman Luc Snuggerud made it 1-0 at 1:12. He has possibly the best name in hockey and now a go-ahead goal to add to that mantle. David Pope made it 2-0 in favor of UNO while the Mavericks continued to keep the Buckeyes out of the back of the net. Shots ended at 16-13 in favor of OSU in the second but they continued to be unable to break through.
The Tim Beck/Ed Warinner-caliber offense would finally dissipate in the third for Ohio State as they'd finally find a way to put one home. It took their seventh powerplay of the game, but OSU senior defenseman Craig Dalrymple scored his second of the season to get the Buckeyes within one with just over seven minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, that'd be all that the Buckeyes would be able to muster as Omaha goalie Evan Weninger went right back to standing on his head and didn't let OSU get a goal to knot up the score. UNO would add an empty net goal by Austin Ortega to make it 3-1 and seal the game.
Ultimately, while Ohio State lost, they showed something that they hadn't really shown since the last season: the ability to hang with the top teams in the country. By no means are the Buckeyes anything close to one of the better teams even in the Big Ten, but they at least seem to be improving at the right time, much like last year. They're probably not going to make it to overtime of the Big Ten title game like they did two years ago, but they'll at least make the games interesting along the way while preparing the young team to blossom once the players mature. That was something they weren't doing over the first three series of the season.
The Buckeyes will be back in action tomorrow night, once again at Nebraska-Omaha, with an 8:07pm ET puck drop. If they play like they did on Friday and get a little luckier, they just might be able to pull it out.