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March 23, 2014 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Ohio State Can't Hold On

Buckeyes Outlasted in Big Ten Title Game

by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The puck was just laying there,

Six players — three from Wisconsin and three from Ohio State — were pushing at each other in the overtime period, looking for the puck. They skated around the net, but none of them found the puck.

Ohio State goaltender Christian Frey saw it sitting in front of him.

As he reached for it, the puck landed on the stick of Wisconsin's Mark Zengerle. Frey tried to move back into position, but Zengerle had already taken the shot. All Frey could do was turn his head and watch it land in the back of the net.

“It was a tough situation,” Frey said. “I got caught between reaching for the puck, and (it) just slipping though the hole.”

Frey skated out of his crease and doubled over, while Sam Jardine fell to his hands and knees in the crease. Nick Schilkey rested on one knee. Another Buckeye teammate collapsed to the ground, curled up with his head and hands on the ice.

The golden goal ended Ohio State’s season.

It had taken Wisconsin 28 seconds in the third period to score two goals and tie the game, 4-4.

“It was definitely heartbreaking. It was definitely a shock,” OSU captain Curtis Gedig said. “But it’s part of the game, it happens, and you just got to step back and prepare yourself for the next shifts.”

Zengerle's goal ended it at 7:48 of overtime.

The 5-4 loss to Wisconsin was the third game the Buckeyes had played in three days. On Thursday, the Buckeyes defeated Michigan State in overtime, and, on Friday, Ohio State defeated Minnesota.

“When you’re playing for something like this, it feels like the first game of the weekend,” Gedig said. “You just almost go numb you want it so bad. But we can’t use that as an excuse.”

Before Saturday’s game, OSU coach Steve Rohlik told his players it is possible to win three games in three days. Even though Ohio State couldn’t find the third victory, Rohlik said he was proud of his team.

“They emptied the tanks this weekend,” Rohlik said. “They gave it all they had and that’s all I ask. And it’s a big-league step for our program.”

In the first period, Ohio State’s Clark Cristofoli threw a huge hit on Wisconsin’s Jefferson Dahl. The check sparked Ryan Dzingel’s goal, the first of the game.

After exchanging goals in the first and second periods, the Buckeyes entered the third ahead, 3-2. Then 13:08 into the last period of regulation, Tanner Fritz took a shot from the right faceoff circle to put the Buckeyes up 4-2.

But 20 seconds later, Morgan Zulinick threw the puck on net from the point, and  Jefferson Dahl tapped in the rebound to bring Wisconsin within one.

Twenty-eight seconds later, Tyler Barnes tied the game.

Zengerle sent the puck down to Nic Kerdiles in the left faceoff circle. Kerdiles slid it over to Barnes, who fought off Ohio State’s Josh Healey for the puck.

“There’s a sense of being rattled, but its’ jut my job to shake that off and continue playing,” Frey said. “Next shot focus.”

Frey, who made 31 saves in the loss, started in all three games in the Big Ten Tournament. He stopped a combined 87 pucks and allowed seven goals total. In the first two games, he gave up two tallies total.

“It was really tough,” Frey said. “Tough on the mind and body and you know it’s a hard thing to do, but would’ve been nice to get that done.”

Even without the championship, Ohio State made program history. The two wins at the tournament marked the first time the Buckeyes won a postseason game in Minnesota, and it was the first time since 2005 Ohio State played for a conference title.

“Obviously we weren’t the favorites to win or anything like that,” Frey said.

“I thought some of the younger guys stepped up really big and I’m really happy to see what’s in the future for our team.”

In an up-and-down season that featured inconsistency, Frey was one of the younger players Ohio State relied on. He was a midseason addition who stabilized Ohio State’s netminding situation, starting 16 of Ohio State’s last 23 games.

Over that stretch, the Buckeyes amassed a 10-8-5 record, defeated Wisconsin at the Kohl Center and knocked off one of the country’s best teams in Minnesota.

“It's a huge step for the program,” Gedig said. “(I’m) sad I won't be around for it. To play for (Rohlik), it's a huge honor.”

Gedig, a senior, is just one a few players who won’t be back next season. Barring any early departures, 23 players will return next year.

Including every player who was on the ice when Wisconsin scored in overtime.

“Right now it hurts,” Rohlik said. “But to get the experience that our guys got that our coming back, it’s priceless.

“To be able, at this age, to be one shot away from a win, I think (it’s) a huge building block.”

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©2014 Jashvina Shah. All Rights Reserved.