With 9:38 to play in the third period the Badgers were ready to celebrate Tarek Baker as the hero of their young season.
The freshman forward was awarded a penalty shot when Ohio State’s Matt Joyaux threw his stick to prevent Baker from having a breakaway chance. After patiently waiting through a lengthy TV timeout Baker calmly skated down the length of the ice and slotted a wrist shot past Sean Romeo. The goal was Baker’s first of his young career, and most importantly it gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead.
“Obviously scoring that goal I was feeling pretty high and I think the team was feeling pretty high too,” said Baker after the game. “I kind of just blacked out when it happened.”
Over the next eight minutes Mason Jobst proceeded to undo all of Baker’s efforts.
If there was any doubt before the season that Jobst is among the best players in the Big Ten there certainly isn’t any now. Ohio State’s star forward had two goals on five shots for the Buckeyes (1-0, 1-0 B1G) as they beat No. 12 Wisconsin (1-1, 0-1 B1G) 3-2 in Madison on Friday night.
“Jobst was spectacular,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “His two goals were fantastic.”
Jobst was a thorn in the Badgers’ side all night. After tallying 55 points last season the junior got his 2017-18 campaign off to the right start, tying the game at 1-1 in the second period on a fantastic, individual effort. After beating two defenders Jobst was taken to the ground, drawing a delayed penalty en route to sliding the puck past Wisconsin’s goalie Kyle Hayton.
When a sloppy turnover in the Badgers’ defensive zone left John Wiitala wide open to tie the game with only five minutes to play, Jobst once again took control of the game. The Buckeyes’ captain scored on a rebound with 76 seconds left after the Badger forwards allowed him to sneak into the slot unmarked.
“I mean, again, those skill players when they’re on the ice you gotta be sharper with it,” Granato said. “I don’t think our support from our forwards to come back to help was appropriate or what we needed, and obviously they took advantage of it. Great play by them.”
A bright spot for the Badgers during the game was the play of senior forward Ryan Wagner. Wagner hounded Ohio State’s power play all night, helping the Badgers kill off all five of their penalties. He was the only consistent forechecker for the Badgers on a night where Wisconsin got out-worked.
“[Wagner] was outstanding. He’s a great example setter. I wish we had more guys jump on the way he played,” Granato said.
The third-period collapse left a sour taste in the mouth of the Badger players. In a competitive conference like the Big Ten blowing leads can prove to be costly down the stretch.
“That’s not really how we planned our third period here,” Badgers forward Trent Frederic said. “It didn’t really sit too well.”
The Badgers get another shot at the Buckeyes on Saturday night with a 5 p.m. puck drop.