COLUMBUS, Ohio — In being swept by No. 6 Ohio State, the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team saw the gap between where it is and where it wants to be in stark reality.
The Buckeyes controlled most of the two games, including the 3-1 victory on Saturday at Value City Arena that left the Badgers realizing how far they have to go to be among the top teams in the Big Ten Conference.
“At the end of the day, we’re just not good enough right now,” said Badgers right wing Sean Dhooghe, who scored the only UW goal of the weekend in the third period on Saturday. “We realize that throughout the room. The next step is learning from our mistakes here.”
Ohio State, a team returning from a Frozen Four appearance last season and which started its season ranked No. 1, scored a pair of power-play goals for the second straight game. The Buckeyes gave the Badgers little in the way of even-strength scoring chances with a suffocating defensive-zone presence.
The Badgers didn’t have an answer, and they owned up to it afterward.
“There were only bits and parts of the series where we could keep up with them,” UW coach Tony Granato said. “Specialty teams, they were better than us. (Defensive) zone, they ended plays faster than we did in our end.
“The key areas of the game — the net fronts, the battles on the boards — they probably won the majority of them.”
UW (5-7, 1-3 Big Ten) fell to 1-5 on the road this season and 1-9 in its past 10 games away from home dating to last year. The Badgers have lost five of their past six games overall.
Two thorns in their side — Dakota Joshua and Tanner Laczynski — had two assists each. The biggest trouble-maker for UW, Ohio State senior captain Mason Jobst, scored a goal.
“Obviously, that’s unacceptable,” senior alternate captain Seamus Malone said. “We’re better than this. We’re better than a 5-7 record.”
He said the Badgers struggled to compete in a 4-0 loss on Friday and were disjointed on Saturday.
“We were deviating a little bit,” Malone said. “We had some guys on their own page. It just can’t happen. It’s got to be fixed now.”
Tommy Nappier made 27 saves for Ohio State (8-3-1, 3-1) but lost a bid for the Buckeyes’ fourth straight shutout when Dhooghe scored on the power play 5:30 into the third period.
Dhooghe’s tap-in of a loose puck that bounced free at the front of the net ended Ohio State’s school-record shutout streak at 231:42. Nappier and Sean Romeo had combined to stop 99 consecutive shots over parts of five games.
In the series, the Badgers failed to score on 41 even-strength shots on goal.
“There’s no excuse there,” Malone said. “We’ve got to be better and we’ve got to bear down and we’ve got to want to score.”
Two Ohio State players scored their first goals of the season in the first period, and a familiar foe haunted the Badgers again in the second.
Quinn Preston toe-dragged the puck around Badgers defenseman Peter Tischke five minutes into the first period and snapped a shot past goalie Jack Berry’s outstretched glove.
Gordi Myer found daylight between Berry and the near post from the left side on a power play for a 2-0 Buckeyes lead.
“The first two, I’ve got to make those saves, to be honest,” said Berry, who stopped 35 shots. “I can’t have a goal going in on the ice, short side right there.”
A second Buckeyes power-play goal, by Jobst, made it 3-0 in the second. Jobst has eight goals and 21 points in 15 career games against the Badgers.
Berry started after freshman Daniel Lebedeff was ruled out because of an apparent head injury suffered in a collision with Joshua in the second period Friday. Granato said he didn’t have a projection for when Lebedeff or forward Jason Dhooghe, who also was injured Friday, could return.
That added to a forgettable weekend in central Ohio.
“We’ve got work to do,” Granato said. “If you learn from the weekend, then later in the year it’ll pay off. If you don’t learn from it and you try to kid yourself and think something different, then it’s a really bad weekend.”
First period: O — Preston 1 (Joshua, Larocque), 4:58; Myer 1 (Laczynski, Joshua), 18:12 (pp). Penalties: Meyer, O, 7:07; Joshua, O, 9:51; Kalynuk, W, 16:14; Jobst, O, 16:39; Malone, W, 16:47.
Second period: O — Jobst 7 (Westlund, Laczynski), 15:10 (pp). Penalties: Inamoto, W, 5:54; Tischke, W, 7:51; Ege, O, 10:26; Zimmer, W, 13:54; Baker, W, 20:00.
Third period: W — S. Dhooghe 7 (Gorniak, Ess), 5:30 (pp). Penalties: Jobst, O, :19; Gorniak, W, 1:26; Westlund, O, 3:55.
Saves: W (Berry 10-12-13) 35; O (Nappier 10-8-9) 27. Power plays: W 1-for-5; O 2-for-7. Att. — 5,302.