Skating toward the neutral zone against Delaware, Gianni Evangelisti flipped the puck up high between the support beams in the rafters at Bird Arena. It looked like a simple clearing attempt, until the puck landed perfectly onto the stick of Tyler Harkins.
As Harkins skated toward the net, he dished the puck across the ice to Mike Palasics for an easy goal. The trio of forwards accounted for five goals with an additional eight assists in Ohio’s 10-1 win on Saturday for a combined 13 points.
Ohio’s third line is starting to make scoring goals look too easy.
As a whole, the third line consists of Evangelisti, the team’s leading scorer; Harkins and either Palasics or Garrett Jenkins. The speedy group has found success by moving the puck into the offensive zone well and finding chances right in front of the net, where goals are most abundant.
“They play easy hockey,” Ohio coach Sean Hogan said.
All season long, the third line — described as such because it theoretically plays fewer minutes than the top two lines — has been a special weapon for Hogan.
He said he hasn’t looked to match up that line with specific opponent lines much this season, but he expects to do so in games down the stretch against familiar opponents.
Hogan said he wants to put his third line forwards against opposing team’s best lines because of how well they play defensively and their ability to keep puck possession.
“We can hit, we get the puck deep, we get to pucks,” Palasics said. “It’s like we know where each other are out there. If you don’t get the puck first, somebody else is going to be there.”
The most challenging aspect of Ohio’s third line is determining between Palasics and Jenkins who should play alongside Evangelisti and Harkins. Palasics saw more time on the line earlier in the season, but he and Jenkins have recently shared the spot because Hogan has noticed Jenkins working well in that role in practice.
“It’s sort of like a friendly competition,” Palasics said. “Coach is going to put the guys out who’s going to get the W. And I think whoever it is, if it’s Jenkins or me, we just gotta be able to produce.”
Production couldn’t have been much higher for Palasics on Saturday, as he finished with two goals and three assists, and he was named the game’s first star.
Consistent scoring is the easiest way to secure a spot on the third line, which Hogan hopes to have solidified by the last couple weekend series in mid-February.
When Jenkins plays with the third line, Palasics, who has only missed two games this season, typically still gets time on the fourth line. For now, Hogan doesn’t have a wrong choice between the two forwards.
“That’s a good line,” Hogan said. “Whether it’s Jenkins or Palasics, it’s still a good line.”