It was all set up to be a memorable finish for Tarek Baker and the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team in the Big Ten Conference opener Friday night.
It turned into a late collapse.
Baker, a freshman from Verona, was poised to be the hero with a tiebreaking penalty shot goal midway through the third period. But No. 12 UW gave the lead and the game away at the end, with Ohio State’s Mason Jobst making the difference by scoring his second goal of the game with 76 seconds to play.
A 3-2 loss to the 19th-ranked Buckeyes in front of an announced crowd of 7,357 was a tough blow for a UW team that appeared headed toward a key early victory.
“That’s not really how we planned our third period here,” Badgers center Trent Frederic said, “so it didn’t really sit too well.”
The Buckeyes extended their unbeaten streak at the Kohl Center to eight games (6-0-2) by erasing UW’s lead with five minutes to play and striking a late winning blow.
Everything was in place for it to be a much happier result for Baker and the Badgers despite the team playing on its heels for long stretches.
Baker was awarded the one-on-one chance on Buckeyes goaltender Sean Romeo after defenseman Matt Joyaux threw his stick at him as Baker skated alone toward the net.
The UW rookie had to wait out a minute-long TV timeout, building the pressure with 9:38 remaining and the score tied 1-1.
After the whistle finally blew, he slowly skated toward Romeo (18 saves) and fired through the pads to enliven his teammates and the building.
“Scoring that goal, I was feeling pretty high and I think the team was feeling pretty high, too,” he said.
The energy came crashing down less than five minutes later on a series of breakdowns in UW’s defensive zone.
Defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk misfired on a clearing pass and the Badgers couldn’t get the puck out of the zone. Buckeyes forward John Wiitala got behind the defense and was all alone when Sam McCormick slapped the puck back toward the UW net.
Wiitala faked Badgers goalie Kyle Hayton to the ice and tied the game.
“At the line, it should have gotten out,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “We didn’t win a race for a loose puck and we did leave someone behind us. At that point of the game, you’re up 2-1, it was certainly a big mistake for us.”
Jobst beat the Badgers in transition out of the Ohio State defensive zone with less than 90 seconds remaining and finished off a give-and-go with Freddy Gerard from in front of the net as UW rookie defenseman Josh Ess got caught puck-watching.
Granato said there wasn’t enough support from the Badgers’ fourth line of Baker, Max Zimmer and Matt Ustaski on the play.
“They were the more desperate, hungrier team tonight,” Granato said, “and took advantage of the mistakes we made defensively.”
Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said his team didn’t lose its composure after Baker’s go-ahead goal.
“We didn’t have a choice,” he said. “You can either sulk about it, or what I heard on the bench is, let’s keep going.”
There wasn’t an easy answer Rohlik could give for his team’s success at the Kohl Center. The Buckeyes (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) swept the Badgers here to end last regular season, while UW (1-1, 0-1) won the other three meetings between the teams.
“We were just fortunate tonight, to be honest with you,” Rohlik said.
UW missed a chance to start 2-0 for the second time in the past 13 seasons and fell to 1-4 in Big Ten openers.
After struggling to gain possession in the first period, the Badgers started to crack the Buckeyes’ defense in the second. Frederic delivered the opening goal thanks to a quick burst through the middle of the ice by Linus Weissbach.
Hayton (21 saves) posted an early candidate for save of the year while laying on his back a minute later. After he stopped Jobst’s shot from the right side and was crashed into by Matthew Weis in the crease and fell to the ice, Dakota Joshua’s rebound try hit his raised right arm and caromed away from the net.
Jobst didn’t miss the mark later in the period. As he used speed built through the neutral zone to work around Kalynuk and fight off a hook by the UW defenseman, he backhanded a shot off Hayton and in from his knees.
Including his two goals Friday, Jobst has 13 points in 10 career games against UW.
“Jobst was spectacular,” Granato said. “His two goals were great. ... Defensively, we can be better. Offensively, we have to be better. We can’t play that long in our zone.
Ohio State 0 1 2 — 3
Wisconsin 0 1 1 — 2
First period: Penalties: Ford, W, 5:51; Weis, O, 6:11; Kalynuk, W, 16:34.
Second period: W — Frederic 1 (Weissbach, Linhart), 7:38. O — Jobst 1 (Gerard), 14:31. Penalties: Inamoto, W, 7:50; Kalynuk, W, 14:31; Joshua, O, 20:00; Inamoto, W, 20:00.
Third period: W — Baker 1, 10:22 (ps). O — Wiitala 1 (McCormick), 15:00; Jobst 2 (Gerard), 18:44. Penalties: Hughes, W, 4:31; Jobst, O, 10:22.
Saves: O (Romeo 4-8-6) 18; W (Hayton 8-7-6) 21. Power plays: O 0-for-5; W 0-for-1.
Att. — 7,357.