Men's hockey

Badger Killer: Wisconsin looking to contain Ohio State star Mason Jobst's high-scoring ways

Ohio State forward Mason Jobst scored eight points in four games against Wisconsin last year, including a pair of game-winning goals.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

When asked what stands out about Ohio State this season, head coach Tony Granato had a simple answer.

“Twenty-six, is that his number?”

Twenty-six is senior forward Mason Jobst, one of the Big Ten’s most talented scorers who has specialized in putting up big numbers against the Badgers.

Wisconsin (1-1-0 Big Ten, 5-5-0 overall) will need to find a way to contain him, and the No. 6 Buckeyes’ (1-1-0, 6-3-1) dangerous top line, as it travels to Columbus for its first road series of conference play.

Jobst has 19 points in 13 career games against Wisconsin and has scored two points or more in seven of the last eight matchups in the series. He scored two game-winners against the Badgers last season, dealing Wisconsin losses to bookend Big Ten play.

“You need to know when he’s on the ice,” senior captain Peter Tischke said. “You need to be aware. He’s fast, he’s shifty; you have to stick with him and really play his body instead of the puck.”

In past seasons Jobst has been the keystone of some high-flying offenses; the Buckeyes were 10th in the country at 3.20 goals per game last season. But this year Ohio State has been winning on the other end of the ice, carrying the nation’s third-best scoring defense into the weekend’s series.

The potential for a low-scoring affair makes Jobst even more dangerous, as one mistake while he’s on the ice is that much more likely to be the margin in the game. Wisconsin’s coaching staff is prepared to prioritize its matchups against Jobst’s line whenever possible in hopes of containing the electric forward and ending his run of success against the Badgers.

“You have to elevate your game against a kid like that and make sure you take away time and space,” assistant coach Mark Strobel said. “We will be extremely conscious [of him]; Tony [Granato] and I will talk about that as a group with the forwards.”

At just 5 foot 8, Jobst makes plays with his elite change of direction ability and puck-handling, rather than through size. Wisconsin players and coaches cited his ability to cut a play back, leaving the primary defender out of position and unable to make a play, as one of his skills that stands out the most. The Badgers are prepared to send extra defenders Jobst’s way to make sure there’s a player with him at all times.

“We’re gonna not let him generate the confidence and speed through the neutral zone that he wants to have leading rushes,” Strobel said. “He is excellent at cutting back and cutting across … Our big message is stick on puck, overload him so if he does cut back there’s a guy in his face, and we’re just going to try to outnumber him.”

Granato cited staying out of the penalty box as another key to keeping Ohio State’s offense in check, and it’s an area where Wisconsin has struggled this season. The Badgers nearly got derailed last Saturday against Minnesota when freshman forward Dominick Mersch was ejected for a major penalty, and they might not be as lucky if the same happens this weekend.

“The discipline part of staying out of the box and playing five-on-five will be key,” Granato said. “You can bottle them up five-on-five and do a good job against them, but if you give them two or three power plays a period, they’re on the ice a lot in offensive situations.”

Every Big Ten team that has played so far in 2018-’19 has split its series, and in a wide-open conference race Wisconsin has a chance to exceed expectations. Getting two or three points from this weekend would put the Badgers in good position to compete going forward.

“It’s a big weekend. They’re a great team; they’re a team we have to be excited about playing because it’s another opportunity for us to show where we’re at, and I like the progress we’ve made,” Granato said.

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