A series sweep of the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers wasn’t in the cards for the 12th-ranked Ohio State men’s hockey team, as the Buckeyes lost 6-5 Saturday night.
Tied after two periods, sophomore forward Dakota Joshua scored what looked like the game-winning goal with 11:36 remaining, putting the Scarlet and Gray up 5-4. But on a five-minute major-penalty powerplay, Minnesota struck twice and withstood a Buckeye attack in the final minutes to preserve a victory.
OSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period with goals from freshman defenseman Matt Miller, sophomore forward Mason Jobst and Joshua. OSU then led 4-2 after senior forward Nick Schilkey’s powerplay goal. Those leads were erased and surpassed as Minnesota completed an impressive come-from-behind victory.
OSU is currently sitting on the bubble of the NCAA tournament field, and coach Steve Rohlik said he knew this one got away from his team.
“There really is much to say about the game other than we gift-wrapped it,” Rohlik said. “We basically shot ourselves in the foot tonight. You can’t give a good hockey team that many opportunities.”
OSU’s silent killers were the two major penalties. All six Minnesota goals were scored on the powerplay, four during the two major penalties. Senior defenseman Josh Healey committed the first major penalty at 14:34 in the second period for a hit to the head, and junior forward Luke Stork committed the second in the third period with a hit from behind. Both were ejected for game misconducts.
Healey’s five-minute major penalty led to the game-tying goal at 4-4 by sophomore forward Tyler Sheehey, his 17th of the year, with under two minutes to go in the second period. Stork’s penalty gave Minnesota the man-advantage on the final two goals.
Overall, Minnesota had 10 powerplay chances and scored on six of them.
“No matter what our percentage is on the night, it’s a matter of going out there and trying to do a job,” Schilkey said.
Toward the end of the second period, Rohlik elected to swap his senior netminders. Matt Tomkins, who started in both games, was pulled and replaced by Christian Frey after the third goal.
“(I was) just trying to wake our team up more than anything,” Rohlik said. “It’s a message to our guys that we can’t let our goalies out to hang. We can’t take penalties. It was more of a trying to get momentum thing than anything.”
Frey made 17 saves on 20 shots compared to Tomkins 14 saves on 17 shots.
If there’s one positive OSU can take from the series, it’s that there’s no question it can compete with the best in the Big Ten conference, but the Buckeyes already knew that. What they didn’t know, however, was if their offense would be alongside them. After a 10-goal weekend, OSU should have a renewed confidence in its offense. The defense is what remains the question mark.
After looking like they were going to run away with the game at 3-0 in the second period, the defense fell apart and couldn’t get pucks out of their zone, and weren’t doing a great job of staying in front of defenders. All of which will be vital to the Buckeyes down the stretch with eight games to play before the Big Ten tournament.
So with another major opportunity missed, where do the Buckeyes go from here?
“Where we go is back to work on Monday,” Rohlik said. “We got a good hockey team in there and like I told the guys, we got eight games left. To be a great team, you have to do the little things. At the end of the day, we’re capable … but tonight we didn’t do it the right way.”
OSU travels to East Lansing, Michigan, next weekend for two games versus the Michigan State Spartans. The puck will drop at 7:05 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.