The world may never know whether, if the troops wanted to, they could put together a football team and dominate the NFL. But we now do know that if they wanted to, they could put together a hockey team and beat Ohio State.
Air Force upended the Buckeyes in a shootout, 1-0, to win the Ice Breaker Tournament. The two teams were tied at 3-3 after regulation and overtime concluded, and Air Force won 1-0 in the shootout that ensued to decide the tournament title.
Christian Frey got his second straight start, and despite his great effort versus No. 3 Denver, he didn’t give OSU much of a chance in this one. He allowed three goals on only 15 shots and an .800 save percentage won’t get it done on even your best days.
Phil Boje scored the only tally of the first period as Air Force took a 1-0 lead just 3:00 into the game. Ohio State outshot Air Force 19-9 in the first period, but couldn’t put one past Shane Starrett to even the score.
They would be able to tie it up just 3:44 into the second, however, on Ronnie Hein’s first collegiate goal, with assists from Miguel Fidler and Josh Healey. The Michigan native’s first came off a scramble in front. Points from Fidler are also a welcome sight as the highly touted Edina native is a prime candidate to break out this season.
Unfortunately, Air Force would score twice in the second to give themselves the lead back and then double it. Ben Kucera scored on the powerplay at 11:35 and Jordan Himley doubled the lead at 17:57. The Buckeyes were penalized three times within 3:51 in the second period, between 9:34 and 13:25. That’s not what you want to do against any team, much less one that just upset No. 5 Boston College.
OSU only outshot Air Force by a tally of 12-9 in the second, but the goals were 2-0 in favor of Air Force in the frame. There was a close call 42.2 seconds left in the second, but the ruling on whether a puck went in held in favor of Air Force, and the Bucks went into intermission down 3-1.
Matt Tomkins relieved Frey in the third as the latter only stopped 11/13 in the second. Not horrible, but the team needed a jolt. Tomkins wouldn’t allow a tally until the shootout.
Ohio State would outshoot the AFA 17-3 in the third, but this time, the goals were 2-0 in favor of the Buckeyes in the period. And it very well could have been 3-0 as an Ohio State goal was waived off just eight seconds into the third due to goalie interference.
John Wiitala cut the lead in half with his second of the tournament and season to make it 3-2 on a rebound off the initial shot by Hein at 2:44. Twelve minutes of scoreless action later, it looked like Ohio State would come up just short despite dominating in the shot department, especially in the third.
Then Nick Schilkey, the team’s best overall player, showed just why he has that title, tying the game off a goal mouth scramble at 14:43. David Gust and Matt Joyaux had the assists on the game tying shot.
And that’d be all we got from regulation. OSU was lucky, despite the shot totals, to get this far, as Frey and the defense just didn’t seem to have it tonight. And the offense couldn’t find the net as much as you’d expect them too given the 49 overall shots, including overtime.
And in that overtime, Ohio State again dominated in shots, 7-1, but couldn’t find a hole in Starrett. In the shootout, he remained a brick wall and kept Ohio State out in the one round to decide the tournament, denying Schilkey. Tomkins wouldn’t prove as hard to score on, as Tyler Ledford put home his opportunity and sent both teams home after that solitary round.
The Buckeyes are the better team on paper and should have won this game, outshooting Air Force 49-28. But sometimes in hockey, things don’t workout as you plan and you’d have to figure that OSU wins this game nine out of ten times if the shot total disparity remains that wide.
The bigger point to pay attention to is how good teams win games like this. Maybe OSU is just getting the kinks out, but closing series and beating teams you should is something they’ll have to do if they want to crack the top half of the Big Ten.
Things won’t get much easier next week, when OSU travels to in state rival Miami on Saturday, October 15. Both have received votes in the USCHO Top 25, so this should be a good one.