Ohio State Goaltending Situation Took Some Crazy Turns, But Comes Out Stronger
by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer
Logan Davis was certain he’d only play for a few minutes.
The freshman entered Ohio State’s Nov. 9 contest against Niagara at the 3:44 mark, after starter Matt Tomkins left with an injury.
“Come on Matt, let’s come back,” Davis thought at the time.
“When I realized he wasn’t coming back in, I was really, really nervous,” Davis said. “I kind of settled down after being in for a little bit.”
While Davis waited nearly 15:06 minutes to face his first shot, he contemplated his potential first collegiate win. He also thought of all the bad possibilities.
“Obviously my mind was reeling with the most negative things that could happen,” Davis said. “I was just hoping to do my best [so] we could win.”
The Upper Arlington, Ohio, native earned the victory, making 14 saves and allowed one goal.
The game left Davis as Ohio State’s only healthy netminder.
“It is really awesome actually,” Davis said. “You feel really secure and you don’t have to worry about anything except for just playing and having fun.”
The Buckeyes entered the season with Davis listed third on the depth chart. He was on the roster with classmate Matt Tomkins and sophomore Collin Olson, who split starts over the first four games.
By Oct. 26, Tomkins was Ohio State’s starter. By Nov. 3, just after the series with Minnesota-Duluth, Olson departed for the USHL.
The loss left Ohio State with two rookie goalkeepers, Tomkins and Davis, for the November set with Niagara. Tomkins, a Blackhawks prospect, started both the games and suffered his injury in the second contest.
With Tomkins, who posted a 5-3-0 record and a 2.76 goals-against average, out, Ohio State needed a backup for Davis.
“You don’t see many programs bring guys in at Christmas, but this was kind of a unique situation,” coach Steve Rohlik said.
“We talked to a lot of people, went out, watched a lot of games,” Rohlik said. “Joe [has a] background with goaltending and [he] knows a lot of goalies out there, we narrowed the search down to a handful.”
They settled on Dubuque’s Christian Frey.
“Academically and everything else we just felt he fit into our culture here and what we’re trying to do,” Rohlik said.
With school in session, the Buckeyes couldn’t merge Frey into the program just yet.
“There’s no way we could bring anyone into school at that point during the semester,” Rohlik said. “It was a matter of trying to find somebody that was at school that had some experience.”
Ohio State turned to the club team, adding Berkeley, Calif., native Aaron Kahn. Rohlik also spoke with Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals about Aaron Gretz, a junior catcher who played high school hockey.
“[Gretz] wanted to give it a try and step in, help our program.” Rohlik said. “It was a unique situation where you have a student athlete that plays both baseball and hockey.”
Kahn and Gretz joined the team on Nov. 15 as backups, the same day Ohio State hosted Canisius for a two-game set. With Tomkins still injured, Davis made the next four starts.
Ohio State concluded the season’s first half by dropping two games to Michigan. The program returned Gretz to Buckeyes baseball, which was preparing for the spring.
On Dec. 5, Frey signed his National Letter of Intent, becoming the sixth Ohio State goalkeeper to occupy the team’s roster this season.
“It was crazy. I had so many different things to do. … It was incredibly hectic,” Frey said. “But I was excited. I was excited to come into college and start playing for this team.”
Frey began practicing with the team a few days before the midseason break and started skating with the team full time after Dec. 26.
“You have to give credit to a lot of the guys on the team for pretty much seamlessly letting Christian join the lineup both on the ice and in the locker room,” Davis said. “Everyone’s been really great about it and it really didn’t affect our team negatively in any way.
“All we’ve done is grown in a positive way.”
Rohlik wanted Frey, who registered a 9-3-1 record and a 2.08 goals-against average while with Dubuque for the first half of the season, to face collegiate competition as soon as possible.
So the first-year head coach started Frey against Mercyhurst in Ohio State’s first contest of the second half.
The Arlington, Texas, native was nervous, but he remembered finding confidence after a deking save to negate a Mercyhurst 3-on-2 breakaway.
Frey won both the Dec. 28 and 29 contests against the Lakers, allowing five goals and stopping 56 pucks over the weekend.
“As he continued to go, his confidence grew and I thought he played solidly, even [in] our second game, he really stepped up,” Rohlik said. “We weren’t playing great as a team defensively, [and] he made some great saves, especially in the second period. I was really pleased with his performance.”
The Mercyhurst series snapped Davis’ string of four straight starts. The Ohio native had played in five games leading to the midseason break, posting a 3-2-0 record, and a 2.21 goals-against average.
“It seemed like I’d just kind of been the guy for so long that it was a readjustment,” Davis said. “But I was definitely glad to see how well Christian did and I don’t think it was as big of an adjustment as I thought it was going to be.
“Originally I was kind of upset. But then watching the team play, at the end of the day as long as we’re winning and the team’s doing well, I don’t really care who’s playing.”
Rohlik said Tomkins, who has been practicing with the team, is still day-to-day. When Tomkins returns, he’ll compete with Logan and Frey for playing time.
“I think it’s helped the team a lot, it’s built a lot of character for the team,” Davis said. “As a goalie it was obviously very up-and-down.
“At the beginning of the year, it seemed like I wouldn’t get to play at all, and then all of a sudden I’m playing and now all of a sudden I get to be in a role where I’m fighting for a position.
“It made the year feel full and interesting.”
The goalkeeping addition and subtractions left the Buckeyes with four netminders — Frey, Davis, Tomkins and Kahn.
“We’ve learned how, as a team, that no matter what you can adapt to situations,” Rohlik said.
“I think good teams can do that and they didn’t let it bother it, they didn’t let it rattle us. They went out there and they learned they can block more shots, everybody can buy into playing good defense.
“It just drew our team closer together.”