Two years ago, coming into the Big Ten Tournament, David Gust was a little known sophomore with eight total points on the season. But he came in like a (heh) tornado and blew away Minnesota despite OSU’s loss, looking like the best forward Ohio State had that night. This afternoon, in the Big Ten Tournament, Gust didn’t want his college career to end.
Ohio State went into the third period this afternoon at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit looking like the team expected to lose, not 7-24-4 Michigan State. Shots were even despite Ohio State trailing for much of the late first and early second period. OSU is the more talented (and ranked) team and should have beat this team down. But they weren’t.
The third period started as a 3-3 game, looking like it could knock Ohio State from the NCAA Tournament at large bid conversation. A minute and 38 seconds later, you knew it was over. Thanks to Gust.
He scored twice in the first 1:38 of the third period, with the goals coming within 1:13 of each other. Leading the team in shots in the game with five, Gust made sure his collegiate career didn’t end with a horrific upset that would’ve effectively neutralized any goodwill the hockey team bought this season playing the likes of Denver and Minnesota tough.
But now they get a chance to, in all likelihood, stamp their ticket to the NCAA Tournament if they can beat number two seeded Wisconsin tomorrow in Detroit in the second round of the tournament. The Buckeyes just swept the Badgers in Madison, so there’s no excuse, but after today, anything is possible. And it’s only possible thanks to Gust.
Matt Tomkins, as expected with his recent run of strong play, got the nod in net over (somehow) Second Team All-Big Ten goalie Christian Frey, and put up a performance that’ll probably be good enough on most nights behind a team that can score as effectively and quickly as this one.
He allowed three goals, all in the first period, on 29 shots. Not a terrific save percentage by any means, but when your team is capable of scoring five or six goals on anyone, you’ll take it.
The key, though, as it’s been throughout this entire season, has been attacking and staying attacking. Ohio State went up early in this one, with goals from Mason Jobst and Nick Schilkey (of course) but then found a way to allow three consecutive MSU goals in a span of 5:22. That should not be possible if you’re this much more talented and not sitting back.
Nine minutes into a game, even with a multiple goal lead, is no time to sit back and protect, especially when your goaltending is shaky and defense is nothing to write home about. Depend on the forwards and scoring that got you here. Jobst has broekn 50 points this year! Schilkey came in shooting nearly 30%! Let them go!
Villiam Haag, Dylan Pavelek and Sam Saliba, in order, were the goal scorers for MSU in the first period, with the first coming at 8:58 and the last at 14:20. They wouldn’t score again, but they held onto that lead for 18:34 when Brendon Kearney, he of two goals on the year, scored the tying goal after a litany of weird offensive zone ricochets and rebounds eventually landed right on Kearney’s stick in the slot, letting him rip one past Ed Minney.
The game would go into the second intermission tied at three with shots 19 apiece. That set the stage for Gust.
His first goal, on the powerplay, came off a pass from Jobst on the sidewall. Gust tried to hit Dakota Joshua in front of the net, but the pass wouldn’t get there and somehow ended up back on Gust’s stick in front of the net. He buried it and scored what would ultimately be the game winner.
He wasn’t done though, obviously. He scored again just 1:13 later, this time with Janik Moser of all people recording the lone assist. Gust buried the Spartans a lot more efficiently than the Persians, in just one minute and thirteen seconds.
Tanner Laczynski showed signs of a late season rebound, scoring the insurance goal at 3:51, with assists from Tommy Parran and Matthew Weis, to make it 6-3 and that was all she wrote.
OSU poured it on in the third, outshooting MSU, 15-7. Ohio State, and Gust especially, basically decided this was over when the third started and enforced their will. And that was that.
The Buckeyes will take on Wisconsin tomorrow at 4:30pm ET in Detroit and if they win, there’s almost no chance they won’t make the NCAA Tournament. Get excited.