Going on the road to beat a ranked conference rival is a pretty swell start to the season, no? I’d certainly think so as the No. 19 Ohio State mens hockey team went into Madison on opening night and took down No. 12 Wisconsin. It wasn’t the 2014 Big Ten Title game of massacres over the Badgers or anything, just a close win and the perfect start to the season for OSU.
A team breaking in a goalie with little experience — and having freshmen at the bottom of the lineup playing — probably didn’t particularly enjoy playing at a conference rival on opening night; but hey, if it works out? This must be the Big Ten’s new scheduling strategy for some reason, similar to how the football team played at Indiana to start.
Either way, Sean Romeo was solid if unspectacular in goal as he saved 18/20 shots for a .900 save percentage. If he can give you that, OSU is going to win on most nights against most teams.
The most encouraging part to me, the hockey nerd, is that OSU only allowed 20 shots on goal versus the No. 12 team in the nation on the road. Ohio State was outshot on aggregate last season and had some problems with a lack of shot suppression. If they have either altered the strategies or brought in enough new talent to more effectively suppress shot attempts against them, this team could be in for a bigger year than expected.
It was a relatively low event game in total, as OSU only had 24 shots on goal on Wisconsin goalie Kyle Hayton. But just outshooting a ranked opponent on the road, even with the team trailing two different times (for less than 15 game minutes total, it should be said), is something to take from the game on top of the win.
The game didn’t start out as positively for Ohio State, as they held Wisconsin to only four shots on goal in the first period and yet couldn’t capitalize on any of their eight. The Bucks had two powerplays but couldn’t generate a single shot on goal in the frame.
In the second, Trent Frederick scored UW’s first goal of the year, at 7:38, to put Wisconsin up 1-0, but that lead would only last for less than seven minutes.
OSU captain, and best player, 23-year-old college junior Mason Jobst scored his first of the year as he fought through the UW defense and scored on his backhand from his knees to tie the game at one apiece. Freddy Gerard had the lone assist.
In the third, Ohio State would fall behind after causing a penalty shot for Tarek Baker, who converted his chance.
But that’d be the last goal Romeo gave up and Ohio State would find a way.
At 15:00 exactly of the third period, Sam McCormick channeled his brother Max and found John Wiitala in front to knot the game at two apiece. Wiitala was streaking toward the net as he found his way behind the defense and deked Hayton out of his skates once McCormick somehow slithered a pass through the defense.
The game sure seemed like it was heading for overtime.
Mason Jobst disagreed.
After his highlight reel goal to tie the game at one in the second, he wanted another, less flashy goal to earn OSU at least a split in the series.
Jobst left the puck for Gerard at the top of the zone and Freddy went down into the right faceoff circle and hit Mason in front, as he put it past Hayton to give Ohio State the 3-2 lead that would eventually be the final score.
Wisconsin would be held to eight shots total in that third period and couldn’t get another one by Romeo.
On a night where the Blue Jackets shut out the Islanders in their season opener and the Indians were allowed a win by Joe Girardi’s managerial incompetence (I’m posting through it as a Yankees fan, don’t worry about me. Never stop posting), OSU hockey did their part to stand out on the Columbus sports scene with a win at No. 12 Wisconsin.
The two teams will faceoff yet again on Saturday in Madison at 6pm ET. Go Bucks.