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Men’s hockey: Ohio State fails to secure weekend sweep, tie Arizona State, 2-2

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OSU sophomore forward John Wiitala passes the puck along the boards against an Arizona State defender. Credit: Courtesy of Ric Kruszynski/OSU Athletics

There’s always a reason as to why the game is played. The No. 10 Ohio State men’s hockey team found that out the hard way on Saturday afternoon.

Despite being heavy favorites following a 6-1 victory on Friday, the Buckeyes (11-4-5) tied Arizona State 2-2 in the weekend finale at the Schottenstein Center.

The Sun Devils (7-17-2) tied the game with an extra skater with 26 seconds left in the third period on a goal from freshman forward Tyler Busch. OSU junior forward Kevin Miller and sophomore forward Mason Jobst scored to take the team’s only lead late in the second period. This result marks the fourth tie of the season for OSU, all coming to non-conference opponents.

The teams could not decide a winner after an overtime period and the game officially ended in a tie, but Arizona State won the ensuing shootout 1-0.

“We just got to keep getting better. Every time you lace it up, you’ve got to compete at the highest level,” coach Steve Rohlik said. “That’s a good hockey team. To have the lead right to the end, you’ve got to find a way to win that game, and to walk away with a tie leaves a little bitter taste in your mouth for sure.”

Hard hits and bodies on the ice were present from the opening faceoff in this matchup.

Both the Buckeyes and the Sun Devils produced a number of dangerous chances in front of net throughout the first period, including a power play for each team.

Despite these factors, both squads entered the first intermission scoreless.

Arizona State opened the game’s scoring on the power play with 10:20 left in the second period. Junior right winger Wade Murphy ripped a slapshot from the blueline that found its way through traffic, and into the back of the net.

However, the Buckeyes responded strongly with just under three minutes to play in the period.

Miller finished his fifth goal of the season from just out in front of the crease to tie the game at one, with assists coming from freshman forward Ronnie Hein and senior defender Drew Brevig.

Less than a minute later, after OSU received a penalty for too many men on the ice, Jobst skated with speed past the Sun Devils’ defense and netted a shorthanded wrister senior goalie Robert Levin to take the lead into intermission.

The Speedway, Indiana, native has now recorded 12 points in his last six games, but he said that his team needs to create more scoring opportunities for themselves moving forward in order to win games.

“(We need) more shots,” Jobst said. “I think we had 24, and that’s just not enough. We’ve got to shoot the puck more.”

During the third period, the Buckeyes had a chance to add insurance with a little over four minutes left when sophomore forward John Wiitala poked away a Sun Devil pass to go on the breakaway — but after a series of dekes, he saw his shot kicked away by Levin.

This chance would come back to haunt Rohlik’s side, Busch found the back of the net to force overtime, and eventually won in a shootout.

The deadlock lasted through the end of overtime into an eventual shoot-out, which concluded with the Sun Devils on top, but Rohlik said that his team needs to get better this next week headed back into conference play.

“Our message is we’re going to Penn State, a great environment, obviously a very good hockey team, and we’ve got to be prepared this week and ready to go,” he said.

Ohio State is back in action next weekend, as it travels College Park, Pennsylvania, for two conference clashes with the No. 4 Nittany Lions. Both Friday and Saturday’s puck drops are set for 7 p.m.

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