Maybe those predictions about Ohio State hockey finishing second in the Big Ten weren’t so crazy, because the Buckeyes just went to Denver and upended the No. 3 team in the country by a score of 3-2.
This was the first round of the Ice Breaker Tournament hosted in Denver and both Ohio State and Air Force upset top five teams, with Air Force taking down No. 5 Boston College in the other first round matchup. OSU and Air Force will face each other for the Ice Breaker championship on Saturday night.
So this was a slightly better start than last year’s 0-7 beginning to the season for the Buckeyes, if I do say so myself.
Matthew Weis started off the scoring just 29 seconds into the first period on a redirection of a Luke Stork pass for his first of the season. Nick Schilkey, of course, registered the secondary tally. Denver would strike back toward the end of the first, at 14:06, with a goal from Tyson McLellan to send it into the break tied at one apiece.
Denver unloaded on the Buckeyes after that initial goal, outshooting the visitors 12-6 in the first. Score effects and whatnot, with Denver trying to tie the game back up and Ohio State maybe sitting too idly by on their early lead. But Ohio State would take their lead right back in the second frame and then double it up.
Matt Joyaux scored his (obviously) first of the season on a shot from the point at 7:26 with assists from Janik Moser and Weis. It was the redshirt freshman’s first ever game played for the Buckeyes. I’d say it went well. John Wiitala, one of last year’s surprising freshmen, doubled the lead at 16:14 on a loose puck with a powerplay goal with assists from Dakota Joshua and Tanner Laczynski. It was Tanner’s first collegiate point and probably the first of many for OSU’s most heralded incoming player.
Ohio State absolutely dominated Denver in that second period, outshooting the home team 15-6 and earning those two goals. The third period, however, would be an exercise in holding on versus a favorite.
Denver would cut the lead in half at just 3:32 of the third on a powerplay goal from Jarid Lukosevicius. That probably didn’t bode well for an underdog to hold onto the lead, but hold they did. Denver registered 17 shots in that third period and Christian Frey stopped all but that one.
Frey stopped 33 out of 35 shots attempted against him for a save percentage of .943. If he put that up for the rest of the season, Ohio State might just win the Big Ten. He almost certainly won’t, because that’d be an insane number for an entire season, but we can dream.
With Frey’s performance and some of last season’s breakout players continuing to score, the Buckeyes won their first ever game at the Ice Breaker Tournament in their third appearance in the event. They’ll look to earn their second, and first tourney victory with a victory over Air Force on Saturday night.