If I Can Just Prove Myself

By Mason Jobst

Mason Jobst, from Speedway, Indiana, is a two-time captain. An All-American and two-time All-Big Ten selection, he leads active NCAA players with 164 career points and 95 career assists, ranking second with 93 goals. He has the most points for a Buckeye since 1989 and is the Big Ten record holder for points (108), goals (48), power play goals (21) and shorthanded goals (4) in career league games. Jobst, a Hobey Baker Award nominee, is a three-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete and two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree as a real estate major. This is his story and his journey to OSU in his own words.

 

When I think back to why I started playing hockey in the first place, I have to thank my Aunt Sissy.

No one in my family has any hockey background at all. My dad was a wrestler and he played baseball. My mom was a runner and a swimmer. When I was two years old, my Aunt Sissy got me a hockey stick and a goal from Target. I carried the stick around with me all year.

For my third birthday, my parents got me a pair of skates. They slapped some skate guards on it and I walked around the house 24/7 with my skates on. I wore them so much my ankles were bleeding at times.

That’s how it all started.

I first began playing organized hockey when I was five. My dad took me down to Pan Am Plaza in Indy when I was four and teach me how to skate. In the winter, he would make a rink in the backyard for me.

My grandpa lived in Illinois and was a part owner of a nature reserve called Humiston Woods. There was a pond out there and I remember skating on it all the time.

The summer before my freshman year of high school, I got the opportunity to go to Rochester, N.Y., to take part in USA Hockey’s annual player development camp along with the best players in the nation, almost all of whom were AAA players.

For those that don’t know much about hockey, AAA is the level where most of the elite players in the country play before they head to junior hockey.

I had played AA my entire life up to this point, so I was star struck. To be surrounded by all of those AAA guys was overwhelming.

As a sophomore in high school, I wanted to play on the U16 or U18 Jr. Ice teams.

I was told I was too small.

I then made the decision to play for Zionsville High School because my own high school, Speedway, didn’t have a team. Indiana high school hockey isn’t on the same level as some of the major AAA programs, so I tore it up there, which actually gave me a lot of confidence.

I went back to Rochester the next year and led the USA development camp in scoring.

I was never one to look too far ahead, which for me was playing junior hockey. By the time I had moved on from Zionsville hockey and finally up to the U18 AAA level, my dad mentioned I try to go to a United States Hockey League (USHL) combine.

The USHL is the top junior league in the U.S., annually pumping out Division I recruits and NHL draft picks.

That’s the route I wanted to go, and although USHL teams are scattered throughout the midwest, I had the Indiana Ice right in my backyard. That’s where I wanted to play.

I ended up getting drafted by the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

I was pissed. I told myself if they don’t believe in me, I’m going to go up there and prove to them not drafting me was a mistake. But just because I was drafted it didn’t mean I was on the Lumberjacks right away.

So I went to Michigan and tried out for the Jacks, where they told me that I could use another half year of AAA hockey and then they’d call me up.

Sure enough, they brought me up full time.

Let me tell you, the jump from AAA to the USHL was the biggest step I’ve had to make in my career. I went from producing a lot at every level to not scoring very much. I figured out pretty quickly if you’re not scoring, you better be doing something else or you’re not going to be in the lineup.

My first two seasons in Muskegon, my goal was just to stay in the lineup. I became that penalty killing, shot blocking, defensive third line guy that played against everyone.

I played that role for about a year and a half and I was eventually made the captain.

My third year in the league is when I had that confidence returned. My game returned and I was surrounded by first line guys. That 2013-14 season, I averaged almost a point per game.

But while all these good things were happening, I was battling some serious shoulder problems.

Remember how I was telling you I was a third line grinder type of guy? That physical style of play was taking its toll. My right shoulder was coming out constantly and every single game I would come back to the bench with my arm hanging out.

During my first year in the USHL, both of my shoulders had been popping out each game. My plan that summer was to get my left shoulder operated on, play my second season, and get the right shoulder done that next summer.

Although it was necessary, those summers when I was 18-20 years old when I was supposed to be working out and getting bigger, I spent rehabbing. I only weighed about 140 pounds at the time. Whatever weight I had to throw around, I was doing it.

By the time both shoulders were finally healthy, I hadn’t seriously worked out in two years.

 


 

I had been talking to college teams throughout my USHL career, but I had really been messed with a lot.

A lot of teams would tell me, ‘Yeah, we have money for you. Come on a visit!’ and then they would either cancel the visit or say ‘Sorry, we have no money for you.’

My last year in the USHL, I was still uncommitted and was stressed out of my mind at the thought of one of my shoulders popping out again.

I thought if that happened, my career was done. Who would take a shot on me? I would have to walk on somewhere.

If you’re wondering what I would be doing if my career didn’t work out? I’m very entrepreneurial minded. Being out of high school for so long and having summers off working out during juniors, I decided to look into investing in the event I wasn’t going to be able to play anymore.

I got into real estate. I’ve even flipped a couple of houses and made money doing that. Ohio State has a real estate degree within the business school and that’s one of the reasons I really wanted to come here.

Anyway, I played well at the USHL’s annual Fall Classic, one of the biggest scouting events in the country. That’s where Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik saw me and some other teams started to become interested in me.

Alabama-Huntsville, Nebraska-Omaha and Western Michigan all offered me money, but my heart was all about the Big Ten.

I didn’t get one sniff from any Big Ten school, but I understood. I didn’t have incredible numbers, I was small and I was always injured.

I believed I could be a Big Ten player, but I just wasn’t healthy enough to prove it to everyone.

Ohio State ended up giving me a call and said they were pretty sure they were going to have money for me, so we set up a visit.

A couple days before the visit, my advisor called me and said OSU didn’t have any money for me. They went with someone else and didn’t think they had anything left to offer me.

That was heartbreaking.

He also told me I could still go on the visit if I wanted.

Now, imagine this.

You set up a date with your dream significant other, but he or she lets you know in advance that you’re not going to get the type of relationship you want. Would you still go?

Here’s the thing. My heart was set on the Big Ten. I believed if I could land somewhere in the Big Ten, I could prove myself and earn some money.

So I came on the visit and fell in love with Ohio State immediately. I wanted to come here so bad. Former Buckeye defenseman Janik Möser was a teammate of mine in Muskegon so we hung out. The facilities were incredible. The Schott is basically an NHL rink.

My graduating class at Speedway High School was 99 students and the population of my hometown of Speedway, Ind., is about 12,000.

Ohio State’s undergraduate enrollment is about 47,000.

Coming to a big school attracted me. I wanted to try something different. I didn’t care about going to a hockey school where it was the school’s main sport. Compared to the other schools that had offered me, Ohio State was just different.

Even when I was on my visit, there was still a little bit of hope inside me that they had some money to offer me.

The two assistant coaches at the time – Joe Exter and Brett Larson – took me to dinner and told me they still didn’t have any money for me.

I remember thinking, ‘God, why did I come? I just teased myself!’

I talked with my dad in the hotel I was staying at that night and weighed the options of where I wanted to play college hockey.

The next day, I went to the airport and I got a phone call from Larson. They offered me partial scholarships, but nothing 100 percent for any of the years. I was offered full rides at the other schools, but I didn’t care. I took the offer right there on the spot.

Here’s the kicker, remember that ‘someone else’ instead of me?

That someone is my co-captain Sasha Larocque.

Back to Muskegon I go to finish out the season… where I popped my left shoulder out again the next week.

I called Ohio State and told them the news and from there we decided it I was best for me to get it fixed now, call it quits on the rest of my junior career and start preparing for college hockey in Columbus.

Or so I thought.

We had a really good team in Muskegon that year and we ended up going all the way to the Clark Cup Final to play another current teammate of mine in Dakota Joshua and the Sioux Falls Stampede.

At this point, it had been about five or six months since I had gotten repairs. I was getting to the point where I could play again and I was very anxious to get out there. My doctor cleared me and my mind was two different places.

Muskegon obviously wanted me back on the ice while Ohio State was telling me, ‘Are you crazy?’

There was a lot to risk for potentially five games, but I just wanted to play.

We ended up getting swept, but I stayed healthy, even though Dakota tried his best to knock me out.

The summer before Ohio State, I decided to completely dedicate myself to hockey. No one in the NHL wants a 5’8, third line grinder. If I was going to make it, I had to put up numbers no one could turn away from.

By this point, I’m 21-years-old. All my friends had big boy jobs so while they did that, I worked out and sat in my driveway shooting pucks until 5 p.m.

Quick story before I even played my first game as a Buckeye.

Our senior class is a very close group and there’s a reason for that.

Before I begin, let me just say that there’s a reason Brett Larson has won a national championship as an assistant at Minnesota-Duluth and is now the head coach at St. Cloud State. During my visit, I spent a lot of time with him and he’s incredibly genuine. His personality is another reason I wanted to be a Buckeye.

The summer before my freshman season started the coaching staff brought in our class (all 10 of us!) before any other class arrived on campus which was very unusual. For some reason, they did it backwards.

Freddy Gerard, Tommy Parran, Larocque, and I were all 21-year-olds as freshmen, so while the house was ours, the dorms weren’t ready for the rest of the guys. So they stuck us all in one house for the time being. We had ‘the hockey house’ on campus as freshmen and Larson told us that we’ll get you some air mattresses, and ‘you guys can figure it out.’

All of us? In one house? What?

The house wasn’t that big either.

So we get to the house, and we notice that there are none of these air mattresses that he was talking about. Not a full blown Fyre Fest situation, but still very confusing.

He told us, ‘Oh, they’re at Target.’

What the heck? What do you mean they’re at Target?

He said, ‘Yeah, go get ‘em. You’re on your own!’

I kid you not. The next day, he calls us and tells us he accepted a job as an assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth.

We’ve all been recruited by this guy, he stuck us in a house and he just bounces.

Looking back on it, we really came together those first few weeks being the only guys on campus. That was a big part of our bonding.

I grew up an only child and had always wanted a brother or sister. These last four years I’ve lived with my best friends. That’s a dream come true.

These last four years I’ve lived with my best friends. That’s a dream come true.

I don’t think Ohio State was taken very seriously in the Big Ten. My class takes a lot of pride in putting Buckeye hockey on the map. There are so many historic hockey programs within the Big Ten that have won national championships that Ohio State gets overlooked a lot.

To be the first class to bring a Big Ten title to Columbus means a lot to us.

 

 

Our freshman year, we started 0-7, so nothing was going right. What did we get ourselves into?

Little did we know what we’d accomplish to this point.

That first time we made it to the NCAA tournament in 2016, they put us in what they called the ‘Region of Doom,’ pairing us with Minnesota-Duluth, while the other matchup was Boston University and North Dakota.

I thought we didn’t belong. Those were powerhouse programs.

How wrong was I? We did belong, and we almost beat Duluth, taking them to overtime.

After last year’s Frozen Four loss to Duluth, I truly believe our path is going to go through them again.

My dream when I got here was just to make it to the Tournament. Now we’re trying to take that final step.

Everyone has been together long enough where we have our systems down. Everyone knows you can’t win without good goaltending and we absolutely have that with Sean Romeo and Tommy Nappier. The defense isn’t giving up many goals.

I truly believe there isn’t a team in the country that’s better than us when we’re on our game.

Our biggest enemy is ourselves.

For me, my future in hockey is on my mind at times.

My dream is to play in the NHL.

Fortunately, there are numerous guys at the next level that are my size and have opened the door for me to continue to be the player I’ve been.

Going back to what I said about putting up numbers no one can turn their back on, I’ve produced more than anyone else in the country during my four years.

While I pride myself on my hard work and compete level, I think my hockey IQ and consistency are my best attributes.

But here’s the deal.

I’ve been to the USHL Clark Cup Final, a Big Ten championship game and the Frozen Four… and I haven’t won a thing yet.

Getting a ring is number one on the priority list.

Winning the regular season title this year is something I’m happy about, but winning the Big Ten tournament and a national championship are what’s driving me.

After that, I just need a chance.