Lead hockey analyst der Eishockeyzuschauer continues to break down the NCAA hockey teams involved in this weekend’s tournament regional. Read about Princeton HERE. Today we look at Ohio State:
(photo courtesy Ohio State Buckeyes athletic department)
21 March 2018
Lead hockey analyst
Given the school’s somewhat less than stellar historical track record, it is clear that the # 4 Ohio State Buckeyes are going to have to be on ultra urgent upset alert versus the underdog # 18 Princeton Tigers in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament Regional Semifinal at the PPL Center in Allentown this Saturday.
Although The Ohio State University’s ice hockey program is light years beyond where it used to be during the 1970s and 1980s, the Buckeyes have actually been seeking to go even farther for the past two decades now. Ohio State made a big splash on its NCAA Tournament debut in 1998 by defeating both Yale and Michigan State on familiar ice in Ann Arbor to win the Midwest Regional and advance to the Frozen Four at the school’s very first attempt. Ever since, however, the Buckeyes have been on something of an NCAA Trail Of Tears which began in the 1998 national semifinal that was contested at the Fleet Center (now TD Garden) in Boston and has traveled through such fatal places as Worcester, Providence, Albany, Minneapolis, Manchester and Fargo :
1998 … Boston College 5 : Ohio State 2
1999 … Maine 4 : Ohio State 2
2003 … Boston College 1 : Ohio State 0
2004 … Wisconsin 1 : Ohio State 0 (ot)
2009 … Boston Univ 8 : Ohio State 3
2017 … Minnesota-Duluth 3 : Ohio State 2 (ot)
Ohio State (24-9-5) have already posted the school’s highest win total in thirteen years and, after losing the Big Ten Conference Tournament Final in overtime to the # 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Compton Family Arena in South Bend on St. Patrick’s Day, could very well be poised to skate with a noticeable chip on their shoulder at the PPL Center in Allentown. Despite being without first line center Matthew Weis (37 ga, 12 go, 37 pts), the Buckeyes hauled themselves level after conceding a pair of early goals while dominating large parts of both the second and third periods in the process. Taken into extra time for a third consecutive Big Ten Tournament game after seeing off the Michigan State Spartans in the quarterfinals and the # 8 Michigan Wolverines in the semifinals, Ohio State may have been as short on gas in the tank as they were luck on hand against the Fighting Irish in South Bend.
After helping the United States to win a gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Canada last season, promising sophomore Tanner Laczynski (38 ga, 15 go, 43 pts) has emerged as Ohio State’s main attraction and was named 1st Team All-Big Ten this term. The 20-year-old center / right wing whom the Philadelphia Flyers chose in the sixth round of the 2016 National Hockey League Draft, has been skating on a line in recent weeks with the diminutive left wing Freddy Gerard (37 ga, 11 go, 22 pts) as well as the experienced Matthew Weis (37 ga, 12 go, 37 pts). But then Weis, the 22-year-old senior center from Madison, New Jersey, who had scored the overtime winner versus Michigan in the Big Ten semifinal, suffered an undisclosed upper body injury suffered during practice, and did not play against Notre Dame – his status for the NCAA Midwest Regional in Allentown is unknown at this time.
Mason Jobst (37 ga, 19 go, 41 pts) was a 2nd team All-Big Ten selection and centers the Buckeyes’ second line; the 24-year-old junior from Speedway, Indiana, is said to be the shiftiest, most elusive skater on the entire team. Dakota Joshua (31 ga, 14 go, 24 pts), the 21-year-old junior from Dearborn, Michigan, whom the Toronto Maple Leafs took in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, provides a good indication of Ohio State’s depth while centering the third line. A pair of junior wingers, John Wiitala (38 ga, 8 go, 19 pts) and sturdy linemate Brendan Kearney (38 ga, 5 go, 17 pts), also contribute a reasonable amount offensively; nine of the eleven forwards who have skated in thirty or more games this season are upperclassmen (juniors or seniors) so there is a great deal of experience up front for Buckeyes head coach Steve Rohlik, as well.
Christian Lampasso, the 23-year-old senior from Amherst, New York, who had a grand total of four goals in his first three seasons at Ohio State, came out of nowhere to light the lamp ten times for the Buckeyes this term. And don’t go to sleep on checking line center Luke Stork (37 ga, 0 go, 7 pts) just yet, either. The 22-year-old senior from Pittsburgh does have a respectable total of seventeen goals over the course of his collegiate career. And, as history has already shown again and again, quite often it is the proverbial unheralded, unknown player skating on a defensive-oriented third or fourth line who pops up in critical moments of marathon games to provide spectacular winners.
Ohio State pretty much roll all four lines at all times in order to wear opponents down. Princeton’s scoring is not quite as balanced as that of the Buckeyes while the Tigers’ third and fourth lines are far less experienced than those of Ohio State. Therefore, it should be interesting to see what happens if the ECAC Tournament champion fall behind or perhaps even if the underdogs find themselves still in the hunt rather late in the game.
Sasha Larocque, the 24-year-old junior from Alberta, is the quintessential ‘stay at home’ defenseman who was named 2nd team All-Big Ten while anchoring Ohio State’s blue line corps this season. Larocque (198 lbs) and sophomore Matt Miller (204 lbs), the leading scorer among all OSU defensemen with both seven goals and eighteen points this season, are the only two regulars at the back for the Buckeyes who have any kind of real size to speak of now that Germany junior national team veteran Jannik Moeser (196 lbs) has been spending a lot of time in the press box as a healthy scratch as of late. There is little question, however, that both Wyatt Ege (165 lbs), the 23-year-old redshirt sophomore who transferred from the University of Alaska – Anchorage, and fellow undersized defenseman Gordi Myer (178 lbs) are both capable puck movers who can create offense and should be in uniform; Ege leads all OSU defensemen with sixteen assists this season while Myer has eleven helpers and twelve points.
Matthew Joyaux (25 ga, 1 go, 8 pts), the 24-year-old redshirt junior who originally began his collegiate career at Miami University of Ohio before transferring, and Tommy Paran (25 ga, 0 go, 3 pts) had spent much of the season battling over the sixth defenseman but both featured regularly in the line up for Ohio State during their four-game run at the Big Ten Conference Tournament – at the expense of Moeser, who did skate as a seventh defenseman for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten semifinal against Michigan.
Sean Romeo (34 ga, 2.09 avg, .925 svpct) has been the tireless workhorse for Ohio State and was rewarded with a 2nd team All-Big Ten selection as a direct result. The 23-year-old redshirt junior by way of Cary, North Carolina, began his collegiate career as a goaltender who shared half of his team’s games with his teammate. But then Romeo dropped to third string on the University of Maine’s depth chart while appearing in just two games as a sophomore during the 2015/16 campaign and the rest, as they say, is history.
Maine are ranked # 29 out of 60 Division I teams on the all-important “Pairwise Rankings” chart this season, for the benefit of those who might be curious. Meanwhile, Romeo (6’1″ 195 lbs) and the # 4 Buckeyes are ready to embark on a brand new NCAA journey, one which will begin against the upstart Princeton Tigers at the PPL Center in Allentown this Saturday afternoon. Should a very bad date with Juliet or some other crippling tragedy befall the Ohio State starting goaltender, an up and coming understudy is waiting in the wings.
The 19-year-old Tommy Nappier (6 ga, 1.33 avg, .956 svpct) turned a few heads while earning his place on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team; thirty saves in a convincing 5-1 triumph over the # 11 Penn State Nittany Lions at the Pegula Ice Arena in Happy Valley this past January was perhaps Nappier’s best performance of the season and, hopefully for Ohio State, a harbinger of things to come in the future.
The immediate business at hand for the Buckeyes, however, is to ‘simply’ win an NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament game for the first time in 20 long years.
Categories: PPL Center Arena