Week after week, Ohio State men’s hockey coach Steve Rohlik preaches how important the special teams game is in hockey and how it determines outcomes more often than not.
This weekend in Omaha, Nebraska, his team lost that battle.
Coming off of a bye week, OSU (3-9) entered back into the realm of facing opponents ranked in the top 20 after taking three of four games from Mercyhurst and Canisius.
The three-game winning streak came to a close as the Scarlet and Gray were swept by No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha (11-2-1) by scores of 3-1 and 6-4 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
After a scoreless first period in Game 1, sophomores Luc Snuggerud and David Pope found the back of the net past OSU junior netminder Christian Frey, putting the Mavericks up 2-0 after 40 minutes of play.
OSU senior captain Craig Dalrymple lit the lamp for the second time this season on the power play to put the Buckeyes within one with 7:07 left in the game. Fellow senior captain Anthony Greco and freshman Dakota Joshua assisted on the play.
The OSU comeback effort fell short, however, as Nebraska-Omaha junior forward Austin Ortega scored his 10th goal of the campaign into an empty net with one minute and two seconds remaining.
The Buckeye power play received seven attempts to make Nebraska-Omaha pay for its mistakes throughout the evening, but the Dalrymple tally was the only one registered on the scoreboard.
The Mavericks were unable to convert on any of their three opportunities on the night.
Frey made 30 saves on 33 Maverick shots while Nebraska-Omaha freshman netminder Evan Weninger stopped 34 of the 35 pucks sent his way.
In Game 2, it was the Mavericks’ turn to enjoy some time with a man advantage, and they cashed in accordingly.
Ortega scored his second of the weekend just 30 seconds into the game. But that was followed up by OSU freshman Mike Gillespie’s first collegiate goal four minutes and 22 seconds later.
A Tommy Parran game misconduct penalty due to checking from behind combined with a Sasha Larocque boarding penalty put the Buckeyes on a five-on-three disadvantage that they were unable to overcome, as a goal from junior forward Jake Guentzel started a run of four straight goals from the Mavericks, three of which came on the power play.
Instead of fading away faced with a 5-1 deficit with 4:23 left in the second period, the Scarlet and Gray battled to the final buzzer.
Larocque continued the trend of Buckeyes scoring their first collegiate goals, as the freshman made it a 5-2 game at the 17:28 mark of the middle frame assisted by sophomore Christian Lampasso and Joshua.
Then the captains took over in the third period, as Greco and Nick Schilkey made it a 5-4 game with 4:45 remaining in the game.
OSU outshot the Mavericks 24-8 in the final 20 minutes.
Again, the rally would end in the form of an empty net goal, this time via Guentzel’s second of the night with 44 seconds left, ending the scoring for the game.
Nebraska-Omaha went 3-of-6 on the power play, ending the Buckeyes’ stretch of 18 consecutive killed penalties in the process. OSU went 0-of-2.
Junior Matt Tomkins, who started between the pipes for the Buckeyes, was removed after the fifth Maverick goal and replaced by Frey. Tomkins made 18 saves on 23 shots, while Frey stopped all 10 shots he faced. Weninger received the nod again to start for the home team, and he made 42 saves on 46 pucks sent in his direction.
The Buckeyes will look to rebound in Minneapolis next weekend, as they are set to take on Minnesota in their Big Ten opener on Friday at 8 p.m., followed by a rematch on Saturday at the same time.