The Ohio State men’s ice hockey team looked to send off its seniors in style as it welcomed the Wisconsin Badgers for the final series of the season at the Schottenstein Center, and it delivered by earning points in both matches.
The Buckeyes drew 4-4 on Friday before losing the ensuing shootout 1-0, but they were able to bounce back the next night to earn maximum points in a 6-5 regulation victory.
The Buckeyes would strike quickly in the first encounter. Junior forward and co-captain Nick Schilkey collected a pass and took the puck down the left wing before slotting it past freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik.
Wisconsin replied with a swift counterattack. A little passing play between sophomore forward Cameron Hughes and freshman forward Will Johnson allowed freshman forward Luke Kunin to find a centered pass and fire the puck behind junior goaltender Christian Frey.
OSU senior forward Tyler Lundey would rapidly get a goal of his just under a minute and a half later. Freshman Tommy Parran launched a shot from just over the blue line, which Lundey deflected in, restoring the Buckeye lead.
It was a solid night for the defenseman Parran, who had two assists and a block on the night.
“Our forwards do a heck of a job. I chip in when I can,” Parran said. “It’s good to move the puck and kind of get up in the rush, create better and more opportunities for us in the backend.”
The Badgers would equalize with less than a minute remaining in the first period. Freshman forward Seamus Malone rounded the netminder Frey and shot the puck off the left-side pipe and into the net, evening the score at 2-2.
“We started off well, obviously, but I think there was a time period from maybe late in the first (period) into the beginning of the third (period) where we just kind of lackadaisical,” Schilkey said.
Wisconsin grabbed its first lead of the night when freshman forward Jarod Zirbel fired a long shot which Frey saved, but he fumbled the puck into the path of sophomore forward Matt Ustaski, who promptly put it into the back of the net.
“They popped a few and we were clawing back once again,” Schilkey said. “Luckily we came out with one at the end there, but at the end of the day we shouldn’t put ourselves in that situation. We’ve got to work on that.”
The Badgers’ penalty-kill prowess was illustrated when the Buckeyes failed to take advantage of a four-minute penalty on Luke Kunin for hooking and elbowing.
“They were sitting back, three back pretty deep on their forecheck and we just couldn’t really get control on the rush,” Schilkey said. “That is something we’ve definitely got to go back and look at.”
Freshman forward Matthew Freytag doubled the Badgers’ advantage with a wraparound shot that found its way underneath Frey and into the Buckeye goal.
Yet the Scarlet and Gray would not go away. Freshman forward John Wiitala received a centered pass from senior defenseman and co-captain Craig Dalrymple and fired the puck behind Jurusik, putting the score at 4-3 with seven minutes remaining in the period.
“One of those games that seemed to start to slip away there in the third (period). Got the bad bounce, goes in the net, and you’re down two,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “I thought our guys started to play our best hockey, again, once we’re down there and started to play desperate.”
With Frey pulled from the net to accommodate an extra man on offense, the Buckeyes were able to find the equalizing goal with 48 seconds left in regulation. Schilkey would strike once again for the home team, this time collecting the puck off a faceoff.
“I think the characters in our room, we’ve just got to continue to learn to play 60 minutes instead of part-time,” Rohlik said. “It was a battle there and it was nice to see us score one there at the end to tie it up.”
Overtime would end scoreless, meaning the crucial Big Ten point would be decided by a shootout.
After five scoreless rounds, sophomore forward Ryan Wagner was able to net the first and only goal of the shootout to give the Badgers the extra point.
“At that point I think we had four opportunities there to win the shootout. In a row, three or four. You’ve got to think one of those guys is going to put one in,” Rohlik said. “When it goes eight or whatever shooters it went, and only one goal goes in, both goaltenders did their job.”
On Saturday, OSU’s three seniors were recognized in a pregame ceremony. Forward Anthony Greco, Dalrymple, and Lundey were joined by their parents on the ice as they bade farewell to the crowd at the Schott
“I don’t know what to say. You know after four years you start to get used to coming to the Schott. Being here, it’s tough to believe that was my last game,” Lundey said. “It’s good to win, go out and win. We might have made it a little harder on ourselves, like coach was saying, but again we won, so best possible outcome.”
OSU had plenty of opportunities against Jurusik in the first period of the match, but it would be the Badgers who got on the board first.
The puck appeared to have crossed the goal line before a scuffle in front of Frey’s goal knocked the net off its place. Originally ruled no goal, further review confirmed alternate and junior forward Grant Besse pushed the puck past Frey before the goal was displaced.
The Buckeyes were able to reply on the power play just a minute and a half later. Junior defenseman Drew Brevig found a centered pass from junior forward David Gust and fired the puck past Jurusik to level the score at one apiece.
Wisconsin would regain and double their lead with just over a minute left in the first period. Grant Besse laid the puck off for Luke Kunin, who launched the puck from long range and into Frey’s net. Just 55 seconds later, sophomore defenseman Jake Linhart was the recipient of an almost identical play from Johnson and fired the puck behind Frey.
“We thought we played a decent first period. We found ourselves behind three to one. You saw a couple of mistakes at the end of the period. What I like the most was our attitude in the locker room after the first sight of these guys,” Rohlik said. “We’re going to be okay, let’s just keep going. That’s kind of the character we have in our room.”
The high scoring would continue into the second period.
Freddy Gerard cut the Badgers lead to one goal two and a half minutes into the second period. The freshman received a pass from behind the goal line from sophomore forward Matthew Weis and shot the puck beyond Jurusik.
Johnson restored the Badgers’ two-goal lead after firing home from close range, courtesy of a Seamus Malone assist. Then, just 37 seconds later, freshman forward Miguel Fidler notched his third goal of the season, bringing the score to 4-3.
The Buckeyes managed to find the equalizing goal with a little over two minutes left in the period after a shot by junior defenseman Josh Healey from the blue line was tipped in by Schilkey.
Sophomore forward Luke Stork would then give the Buckeyes the lead to open the scoring in the third period, but Cameron Hughes tied it up with just under six minutes left in the contest. Then with just under three minutes left in regulation, the puck fell in front of John Wiitala in a skirmish in front of Jurusik’s net, and the freshman pushed the puck behind the goal line, restoring the Buckeyes’ lead for good.
“I think every night we want to win. We got the bounce there and it was good to finish it,” Wiitala said on his game winner.
OSU is set to be back on the ice on Friday in Ann Arbor to face Michigan at Yost Ice Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:35 p.m., with a return to Columbus to Nationwide Arena two days later at 3 p.m.