Twenty, eight and zero.
That’s the number of goals scored by Ohio State men’s hockey opponents, the number scored by the Buckeyes and the number of OSU wins since Jan. 10.
OSU suffered its two most recent Big Ten losses this past weekend to the Michigan State Spartans. The Buckeyes (7-13-2, 2-6-0) traveled to East Lansing, Mich., over the weekend, losing to the Spartans (9-11-2, 3-3-2) 4-1 on Friday and 2-0 on Saturday to extend their losing streak to four games.
In the second matchup, the Buckeyes were shut out by Spartan junior goaltender Jake Hildebrand, who totaled 22 saves.
Though the Buckeyes were not able to finish on their offensive opportunities, coach Steve Rohlik said he was still proud of the way his team played.
“To be honest with you, for the whole game I thought we did what we needed to do to win on the road,” Rohlik said.
The Buckeyes were able to keep the score close, holding the Spartans scoreless until late in the second period as sophomore goalie Christian Frey made 32 saves.
“I thought we played well,” Rohlik said. “We kept the score tight, our goalie played well.”
Late in the third period, it was two major penalties on Buckeyes that gave the Spartans a 3-on-5 power play. Michigan State converted, making the score 2-0 with 1:11 left in the third.
Freshman forward Matthew Weis received a contact to the head penalty that resulted in a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct at 14:49 in the third, and less than four minutes later sophomore defenseman Josh Healey, who leads the team in penalties with 11 totaling 44 minutes, received another five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind.
“The last five minutes is just inexcusable. It just can’t happen,” Rohlik said. “It’s almost like guys want to try too hard and you can’t lose control like that. For a team down one-zip, let’s give ourselves a chance. When you’re playing a good hockey team that doesn’t give up much, we basically just shot our foot off at the end.”
Rohlik emphasized the importance of not receiving the major penalties, which have hindered the Buckeyes throughout the season. OSU ranks third in the Big Ten in penalty minutes with 98 minutes total and averaging 12.2 minutes a game.
“I didn’t really see the Weis hit in the middle, but when you hit a guy in the head, that’s going to be a penalty,” Rohlik said.
Even though the first penalty set the Buckeyes back, Rohlik said he still felt the team had a chance before Healey’s late mistake.
“I mean, I still felt, ‘Let’s give ourselves a chance, pull the goalie and go 5-on-5,’” Rohlik said. “And then getting another (penalty), that’s inexcusable. You can’t put yourself in that position, so really disappointing.”
Rohlik said he wants the team to be more balanced and be able to convert at both ends of the net.
“We have to generate the offense too and I wish we would’ve,” Rohlik said. “We knew that was going to be the type of the game, we knew we had to wait for our chances, even being down one-zip with five minutes to go, that’s a lot of hockey left. Then at the end 5-on-3, what are you going to do? It’s just inexcusable.”
In Friday night’s matchup, the teams were scoreless in the first period before the Spartans gained the advantage with a two-goal lead going into the third period.
Buckeye sophomore David Gust scored his second goal of the season to cut the lead for OSU early in the third period, but that proved to be the only Buckeye tally of the weekend.
Even though the Buckeyes were not able to build upon Gust’s momentum, OSU still saw a lot of chances in front of the goal, which Rohlik said was a bright spot despite a trio of face-off goals by Michigan State.
“I thought we played good hockey, they had three face-off goals that total for about 15 seconds, other than that we had 75 shot attempts,” Rohlik said.
OSU outshot MSU, 34-31, and Frey made 27 saves for the Buckeyes, while Hildebrand had 33 for Michigan State.
The Buckeyes are set for a bye week before returning to Big Ten action Feb. 6 and 7 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, Minn.