For the second straight weekend, Ohio State hockey played a team with an awful 2016-17 record. But unlike last weekend, where they couldn’t take a single win from Rensselaer, this weekend started on a much higher note as the Buckeyes defeated the UMass Minutemen, 3-1, Friday night in Massachusetts.
Ohio State was outshot, despite not going up until past the halfway point of the second period, but talent won out for the Buckeyes, as Mason Jobst’s two powerplay goals proved the difference in this one.
UMass got out to a strong start, though, as Niko Hildenbrand scored his first of the young season, 10:01 into the first. That lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Matt Miller knotted the game up at 15:32 of the first, with assists from Sam McCormick and Brendon Kearney. That’d be all the scoring in the first, but from there on, the Buckeyes’ powerplay took over.
In the second, Ohio State got a golden 5-on-3 power play opportunity as 2017 No. 4 overall draft pick Cale Makar was sent off for hooking at 10:12 of the second, followed by Josh Couturier being sent off for checking from behind during the penalty kill. And Ohio State took advantage of the opportunity.
Jobst scored his third of the year at 11:17 of the second, with just under a minute remaining on the two man advantage. Matthew Weis and Tanner Laczynski both notched their first assists of the year on the goal.
Jobst would strike again in the third after Makar was again sent off for hooking. This time, Mason’s fourth of the year was assisted by a new set of linemates, John Wiitala and Dakota Joshua. It was Wiitala’s third assist of the year and Joshua’s first.
Special teams were absolutely the story and saving grace for Ohio State. We’ve already gone over the power play’s exploits, striking on two of their four overall opportunities, but the penalty kill deserves their own heaping of praise.
UMass never was able to go up on a two man advantage, but still had five different power play opportunities, with Kevin Miller, Weis, Gordi Myer, Laczynski and Janik Moser all taking penalties at one point or another.
But Sean Romeo stopped 24 out of 25 shots and the penalty kill didn’t allow a single power play marker in this one. And no matter how pedestrian the offense looks, when you kill that many power plays and have a .960 save percentage from your goalie, you’re probably going to win.
The one thing to be wary about with this game is UMass out attempting OSU 59-45. Normally that would be expected, especially if OSU went up early. But they didn’t. The game was either tied or had UMass ahead for the first period and a half in this one. Those should’ve been periods the more talented Buckeyes were dominating. But they didn’t.
UMass may have the No. 4 overall pick in Makar, but they still went 5-29-2 last season overall. This is a team Ohio State should dominate in attempts, but it went the other way. We saw a similar trend last weekend in the Sunday game versus Rensselaer where the superior team couldn’t exert their will.
Ohio State has shown that they can do this, at least in last Friday’s game versus RPI when OSU put up 57 shots. They have to keep doing that, even if they were unlucky in that tie.
When you end up playing the Minnesota’s and Penn State’s of the world, you’re going to have to put out a better even strength possession performance than Ohio State did on Friday.
The Buckeyes will get the chance to put on a more dominant performance against UMass on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET in Amherst.