On senior night in Madison, it was a fourth-year goaltender and a second-year forward for Ohio State that stole the show.
Ohio State senior Matt Tomkins’ 27-save performance, and sophomore Mason Jobst’s fourth straight multi-point night, powered the Buckeyes to a 3-1 victory and road sweep over Wisconsin on Saturday’s Big Ten regular season finale at the Kohl Center.
“Give a lot of credit to (Wisconsin) as they kept coming, but our guys sacrificed themselves all over the rink and (Matt) came up with some big saves,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “Mason, he’s not big in stature, but he’s big time in games. It would be hard to argue against him (as the best player in the Big Ten) this year.”
After two points on Friday, the Buckeyes leading scorer roared out of the gate Saturday and opened the scoring less than three minutes in on a spectacular individual play. Jobst drove up the right side of the Badgers defense and ripped a shot over Badgers freshman goaltender Jack Berry’s shoulder.
“Mason’s been unbelievable for us all season long, but he’s got a hot stick right now,” Tomkins said of Jobst. “We put a lot of weight on him, but he’s taken that responsibility well and led this team. He’s been putting up big points for us and contributing to some big wins.”
Jobst’s assist on Saturday came on an even better play. As he was getting pushed toward the boards, the Speedway, Indiana, native managed to get off a perfect backhand saucer pass over the stick of Badgers defenseman Tim Davison to setup sophomore Brendon Kearney for his second goal of the season. The back-breaking Buckeyes’ tally came late in the second period.
“He’s a super-talented player, there is no question about that,” Wisconsin coach Tony Granato said of Jobst. “When they got their opportunities, on an odd-numbered attack or when they found a little bit of space, they made the plays.”
With just over eight minutes left in the game, Wisconsin captain Luke Kunin cut Ohio State’s lead to two, one-timing a great power-play feed from Cameron Hughes. However, the Badgers could get no closer, hurt by a successful offside challenge on Matt Ustaski’s apparent goal earlier in the period.
“We’re disappointed as it was not how we wanted the weekend to go,” Kunin said. “But our group has bounced back all year and I believe in this group and what we can accomplish and we are going to go to Detroit next weekend ready to win two games.”
Kevin Miller scored the Buckeyes’ other goal, finishing off a cross-ice setup by linemate Dakota Joshua just past the game’s halfway point. The goal proved to be the game-winner.
Despite not being able to catch Wisconsin (19-14-1, 12-8-0-0 Big Ten) for second place in the Big Ten, the sweep gave Ohio State (20-10-6, 11-8-1-1) a huge boost in terms of earning an NCAA tournament selection. Prior to the weekend, the No. 16 Badgers held one of the last at-large spots while the No. 15 Buckeyes sat just outside the field. The situation was flipped at the end of night.
“We knew we needed to get the game on Friday and then to complete the sweep on senior weekend here was huge,” Tomkins said. “More importantly, it gets us rolling for next weekend and the Big Ten tournament.”
Both teams head to the Detroit’s conference showcase with huge NCAA tournament implications on the line, especially with conference rival Penn State getting swept at Michigan. Ohio State will take on last-place Michigan State to open the tournament, while Wisconsin (along with Minnesota) will enjoy one the field’s two first-round byes.
“The position we were in a couple of days ago was a lot better than the position we are in now,” Granato said. “But we have an opportunity to go to Detroit as the No. 2 seed. We are going to have to play our best hockey of the year, win two games, and be ready to advance.”
Both teams know two victories should be enough to get into the dance, perhaps knocking the other out of the field in the process.
“We can’t control what the other teams (on the bubble) are doing, but what we can control is winning our games,” Rohlik said. “That’s all we talked about during the week and hopefully we can keep things going in Detroit.”
Big Ten roundup
Michigan 4, No. 11 Penn State 0
With a 4-0 victory Saturday night, Michigan (13-18-3, 6-12-2-2) completed an unexpected home sweep of Penn State (21-11-2, 10-9-1-0), and in the process salvaged a bit of a tough season and put a significant dent in the Nittany Lions’ NCAA tournament hopes. A pair of goals by Adam Winborg and goaltender Zach Nagelvoort’s 44-save performance powered the Wolverines to just their sixth Big Ten win this season. Peyton Jones made 18 saves as the Penn State freshman goaltender fell to 19-9-2 on the season.
Michigan State 1, at No. 5 Minnesota 1 (MSU wins shootout 2-1)
After falling Friday to the Big Ten’s top seed, Michigan State (7-23-4, 3-14-2-1) gained some momentum going into the Big Ten tournament by pulling off a tie and shootout win over heavily favored Minnesota (14-5-1-0, 23-10-3) at Mariucci Arena. Mason Appleton opened the scoring for the Spartans in the first period, while Jake Bischoff’s third-period goal forced the tie. Taro Hirose and Zach Osburn scored in the shootout for Michigan State, while Ed Minney made 32 saves. Eric Schierhorn made 26 saves for Minnesota.