The Buckeyes were never on the same page Friday night in the home opener, dropping first-year head coach Mark Osiecki's initial contest in Value City Arena by a 4-3 score to Robert Morris.
But afterward, much of the talk was about how the loss was brought on by the team not being on the same page.
"I get ticked off if I lose a game of checkers," Osiecki said after the Buckeyes fell to 1-2. "Hopefully, our guys get that way. I'm not sure they are. That's a passion and a relentlessness that we're bringing as a staff hopefully to this leadership core of four guys so they can carry it through to the rest of the team."
John Albert, one member of the newly minted quartet along with fellow senior forwards Peter Boyd and Sergio Somma as well as junior defenseman Sean Duddy, agreed.
"I don't know if guys are nervous or what's going on there, but you can't single guys out," he said. "It's a team effort and our whole team, we have to compete better as a team. There's guys doing their own things. Some guys aren't doing stuff. We just have to come together as a team."
The frustration was palpable after a game that was winnable if not for a cavalcade of mental errors, turnovers, bad penalties and momentum-changing mistakes.
"It's really difficult to talk about because that's all we talk about are those things, very simple things," Osiecki said.
No error was bigger than a penalty taken by Duddy only 21 seconds after Ohio State tied the score at 3 in the third period. On the resulting power play, Robert Morris defenseman James Lyle blasted a puck from the top of the slot that went in off goaltender Cal Heeter at 12:02 for the deciding goal.
The win moved the Colonials – who were missing suspended senior forward Nathan Longpre and his 99 points in 105 career games – to 3-0 for the first time in program history.
"I was really proud of our team's resiliency," head coach Derek Schooley said. "Our power play, which didn't do much earlier in the game, came through in the clutch. I'm really proud of our guys for the character win."
RMU was gifted the early impetus when Ohio State freshman Chris Crane took penalties on his first two shifts, the latter a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head. In all, the Colonials had seven-plus minutes of power-play time in the first period.
"One of our four (gauges) was moving our feet so we didn't take penalties or just dumb penalties," Osiecki said. "So we didn't do that. But we did on the flip side kill those off and limit shots on net. We did a great job of blocking shots. That takes a lot out of you."
Indeed, Robert Morris came out of the intermission and took the lead early in the second. Ron Cramer sprung Cody Crichton on a breakaway he niftily deposited behind Heeter at 7:15, and just 79 seconds later Zach Hervato tipped Chris Kushneriuk's blast just over the line to make it 2-0 in favor of the visitors.
As it would do a few times, Ohio State mounted a response. Somma tallied his third goal in as many games at 12:49 when Shane Sims' shot got behind Brooks Ostergard for the Pittsburgh native to sweep in to make it 2-1.
OSU continued to press and got the equalizer at 19:29 when freshman Alex Lippincott tallied his first career goal, finding the rebound of a shot by Devon Krogh and scoring from the doorstep.
That – along with an early penalty in the third on Robert Morris – should have given the Buckeyes momentum, but instead the Colonials capitalized with Cramer's shorthanded goal at 5:52 of the third. After a neutral-zone turnover by Ohio State, Kushneriuk's shot was blocked but Cramer had position on his defender and didn't waste the puck's fortuitous bounce to his stick.
"It was a comedy of errors," Osiecki said.
Ohio State went on to tie the score a third time with a power-play goal at 10:30 when C.J. Severyn found a loose puck, but just moments later the Buckeyes handed the initiative back to the Colonials with the penalty that led to Lyle's winner.
"Certainly our guys did not respond well, whether it was positive or negative situations and the next shift after," Osiecki said.
"When you score a goal, the next shift is always the biggest," Albert added. "We score a goal, we should be excited … and it seemed like the next couple of shifts were just dead."
Ohio State pushed for the final goal in the last minutes – and nearly got it when Albert deked through the defense in the dying seconds before firing high over Ostergard, a Chagrin Falls, Ohio, native who made 28 saves.
"Being an Ohio kid, being from right up the road, obviously coming back and playing in this area is a big deal for him," Schooley said. "I'm sure it's every Ohio kid's dream to play for Ohio State, and now the Ohio kid just beat Ohio State."
When it came to positives, Osiecki pointed to the fact that the Buckeyes likely topped the Colonials in blocked shots, hits and limiting scoring chances.
"Generally, if you give up 15 chances or less, you win the game, and I bet we're under 15, so there are a lot of things that are positive," he said. "There's a lot of things that are positive. We have to shore up some of the four items that we talked about – penalties, blue-line turnovers, our gauges. There's some major positives we can take out of it. Now the guys need to step up and take some ownership."
After finishing off a two-point night, Krogh concurred.
"I don't think it's much of a systems problem," Krogh said. "I think it's just more of an effort level. I think we have some guys going and some guys just kind of coasting."