Ohio State’s hockey season came to an end tonight with a 5-4 overtime loss in the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes got scores from Ryan Dzingel, Nick Oddo, Clark Cristofoli, and Tanner Fritz and freshman netminder Christian Frey stopped 31 shots, but No. 2 Wisconsin Badgers prevailed in the end, though, and hoisted the trophy as the Big Ten’s inaugural tournament champs.
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Like last night, the Buckeyes started fast. Their energy resulted in several scoring chances and they cashed in twice. Ryan Dzingel drew first blood at 4:51 of the first period, when Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel tried for a poke check, failed, and Dzingel put the puck in the back of the net.
The same line struck again four minutes later. Rumpel stopped the initial shot from Dzingel but Nick Schilkey and Nick Oddo were both in good position to clean up the rebound. It was Oddo lighting the lamp with his ninth goal of the year.
Wisconsin answered with two power play goals. Both were the result of shots through heavy traffic in front Ohio State goalie Christian Frey. The pro-Badgers crowd didn’t celebrate for long. Defenseman Clark Cristofoli stepped into a Max McCormick pass and blasted the puck by Rumpel. The goal was the central Ohio native’s first of the season.
The furious pace of the game began to catch up with the Buckeyes in the third period, who played their third game in as many nights. The Badgers came out of the second intermission with a ferocious energy that had the Bucks on their heels through much of the final frame.
Despite this, Ohio State was able to increase their lead. Tanner Fritz wired a shot to the top corner of the Badger net at 13:08, running the score to 4-2. Unfortunately, all that breathing room evaporated within seconds.
Back to back Badger goals 28 seconds apart erased the Buckeyes’ two goal lead. Both goals came on net mouth scrambles as the Wisconsin players outworked the gassed Buckeyes. Ohio State rallied in the latter minutes of third period, making several bids to retake the lead. However, Rumpel made as many stellar saves and sent the game to overtime.
The game and the season ended for the Bucks 7:48 into the extra frame. Wisconsin’s Mark Zengerle picked the puck out of yet another net front scramble and fired it past Frey.
It’s a disappointing result for Ohio State as the team put themselves in good position to win the inaugural Big Ten hockey tournament. There is no way to soften a blown two-goal lead in the biggest game of the season.
But when this particular loss isn’t so fresh in the mind, fans may be able to look back over the season, see how far the team has come, and be excited about the future of the program. This one stings, but the Buckeyes will be back.