Three minutes into Ohio State hockey’s game vs. Robert Morris on Friday night, it looked like Steve Rohlik would have to wait for another night for his first career win behind the bench.
Fifty-seven minutes of Ohio State dominance later, the first-year head coach had his game puck.
Ohio State shook off an early two-goal deficit, potting five straight tallies on the way to a 5-3 win on a night of firsts in Value City Arena.
Chief among them was the initial head coaching victory for Rohlik in his fourth try after taking over the Buckeye program from his former boss, Mark Osiecki.
“Like I told the guys in our first discussions, this is never just about me,” Rohlik said. “This is about this program, and this is about all the guys in the room. We didn’t start out pretty tonight – I think we certainly have some things to work on – but what I liked about our team tonight is they weren’t going to let it happen again. We have a good group. We competed hard. We bounced back, and good teams find a way to win and we found a way to win.”
True freshman goaltender Matt Tomkins also got his first career win, playing the final 57:09 and allowing a single goal on 27 shots. Junior Nick Oddo also had his first career two-goal performance and senior Travis Statchuk had the first multipoint showing of his tenure, posting three first assists.
Matt Johnson added a goal among his two points while Darik Angeli and Anthony Greco had the other tallies in what was a season-best offensive output for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State (1-3-0) topped the 40-shot mark for the second time this year, putting 41 shots on Robert Morris goaltender Terry Shafer and his reserve, Brandon Lane. The Buckeyes also clearly worked on discipline during the layoff from two opening losses to Miami (Ohio) and a blown lead at Bowling Green, as OSU took only four minor penalties.
“I think these 10 days were great for us to be honest with you,” Rohlik said. “I think the guy s took it upon themselves to understand we’re making some mistakes and we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, and we just have to back up a little bit and go back to the basics.”
Robert Morris jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with two goals on three shots past sophomore goaltender Collin Olson, who to be fair had little help. Greg Gibson put home the first just 50 seconds into the game and Cody Wydo put home a power-play rebound at 2:51 for the visiting Colonials (0-3-1).
But the goalie changed seemed to rejuvenate Ohio State, which turned things around when Johnson chipped the rebound of a shot by Statchuk by Shafer at 8:43.
The Buckeyes were truly off and running, though, when Angeli took Drew Brevig’s diagonal pass at the left post on the power play and forced the puck by Shafer to tie the score at 2 with 57 seconds left in the period. It was Angeli’s team-best third goal in four games.
Oddo gave the Buckeyes the lead for good 2:55 into the second when he took Statchuk’s feed from behind the net and quickly put it by Shafer, and Greco tallied OSU’s second power-play marker of the night less than three minutes later when his goalmouth centering feed intended for Max McCormick went off a skate and into the net.
Any remaining doubt was pretty much extinguished at 10:42 when Johnson, Statchuk and Oddo rushed down the ice with a string of tic-tac-toe passing that ended with Oddo firing past Shafer at the left post.
“I think everybody was speaking up and (knew) it was something we had to do,” Statchuk said of the turnaround. “We took it upon ourselves and challenged ourselves and Coach challenged us between periods and we went out there and stuck to it and got it done.”
The Colonials added a power-play goal by Chase Golightly with 5:13 to play.
Notes: Ohio State played without center Tanner Fritz – the team’s second-leading scorer a season ago – who was out with an upper-body injury. … The Buckeyes play at Robert Morris tomorrow night before hosting in-state rival Bowling Green on Tuesday. … The Colonials had won the three previous meetings between the programs in Value City Arena but have never beat the Buckeyes in five tries away from Columbus.