It’s 9:31 p.m. on Friday and the Ohio State men’s hockey team is in overtime with Big Ten rival and 14th-ranked Penn State at the Schottenstein Center.
Buckeye freshman forward Mason Jobst has just blocked a slapshot with his left leg with 2:42 remaining and is visibly in pain.
In stereotypical hockey player fashion, Jobst doesn’t stay down. Although slow to get up, he musters all the strength he has left in him and frantically tries to help his teammates clear the puck out of the zone so he can get off of the ice.
Fourteen seconds after blocking that shot, just as Jobst returns to the action, Penn State freshman forward Alec Marsh ends the game with his sixth goal of the season.
Questions are immediately raised as to whether the leading scorer in the Buckeyes’ nine-man freshman class would return for Game 2 of the series the next night.
Twenty-four hours later, Jobst dekes Nittany Lions’ junior goaltender Eamon McAdam out of his jockstrap on a breakaway and buries the fourth of his team’s five goals on the night in a 5-1 OSU win.
For Jobst, the Big Ten’s second-leading freshman scorer with six goals and 14 assists, the path to success this season has come through the patience of sitting out most of his final year of junior hockey.
The former captain of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League, the top junior hockey league in the country, Jobst, who had already had both of his shoulders repaired, heard an all-too-familiar pop during a home game in October 2014.
“I had a good summer working out and I was hoping to have a good year,” Jobst said. “I can’t really describe how deflating it was mentally that I had been through a full year of rehab and trying to take care of my body and for it to pop out again was devastating.”
After speaking with his future coaches in Columbus, he determined that it was best to shut it down, have yet another surgery, and hope for an elusive healthy season next fall.
However, the true captain and determined player that he is, Jobst battled back through rehab to rejoin his team for the Clark Cup Finals, where he contributed a goal and two assists, but his Lumberjacks were swept in three games by current teammate and classmate Dakota Joshua’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
Jobst’s journey then continued to Ohio’s capital city to join coach Steve Rohlik’s Buckeyes.
For Rohlik, he was not worried one bit about his somewhat injury-prone center. His recruitment of Jobst told him all that he needed to know about not just the type of player he was getting, but the type of person he is too.
“First and foremost, I saw his competitiveness. Everybody would look at him and say that he’s not a very big kid in stature,” Rohlik said. “What we saw is a kid that competes all over the ice. He wants the puck. He’s not afraid to have the puck. He’s not afraid to go in tough areas. Sometimes guys get to the next level and they are afraid to make mistakes. Mason’s made mistakes, but he’s not afraid. Everyone that has coached him said, ‘Wow, you are going to get a heck of a player here.’”
Jobst, who stands at 5-foot-7 and 159 pounds, has been exactly that through 22 games this season. Not only is he producing on the stat sheet, but in the faceoff circle as well, where he has emerged as the Buckeyes’ top faceoff man, winning 52.5 percent of his draws.
His play has more than impressed the veteran leaders on the team.
“He has the right to be confident out there,” said junior captain Nick Schilkey, who also plays at a height disadvantage at 5-foot-10. “Things are going the right way because he’s playing hard and he is a relentless forward out there and that is what we have to be as smaller guys. You have to pretend that you’re not 5-foot-8 and play like you’re six feet tall. The bounces are going his way and rightfully so.”
After an 0-7 start and a 3-11 record heading into the winter break, Jobst and the Scarlet and Gray are starting to put things together.
OSU is 4-2-2 since the second half started on Dec. 28, and three of those wins have come over top-15 ranked opponents.
Jobst had seven points (three goals, four assists) in the 14 games he played in the first half of the season. In the seven games he has played in during the second half, his play mirrors that of his team’s, as he has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists). He also recently garnered the Big Ten’s Third Star of the Week after a seven-point weekend against rival and sixth-ranked Michigan.
“When we went down to Florida and had those two big wins (over then-No. 4 Boston College and then-No. 9 Cornell), I think that was a huge confidence booster for all of us,” Jobst said. “In the locker room, the whole attitude is just like, ‘Wow, we do have it.’”
Time will tell if Jobst and the Buckeyes still “have it” this upcoming weekend as they get set to host Michigan State for a two-game series. Puck drop on Friday is slated for 6:30 p.m., while Saturday’s matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m.