Jakub Dobes sat in the hockey net in the final seconds of overtime against the Connecticut Huskies in mid-October.
At the other end of the ice, graduate defenseman Will Riedell had just scored the 4-3 game winner, and Dobes — who replaced junior goaltender Ryan Snowden with Ohio State down 3-0 — was an integral part of the win.
“Everybody’s got to be ready when their number’s called,” head coach Steve Rohlik said. “He came in and made some fantastic saves, gave us a chance. We started to chip away; once we got that first goal, our guys believed. Jakub shut the door for us.”
Dobes, a native of Ostrava, Czech Republic, is a freshman goaltender on the men’s hockey team. He hopes to parlay his collegiate experiences into an NHL opportunity and has already had his rights selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2020 NHL Expansion Draft.
Dobes’ father played professional hockey and his mother was a figure skater, so it was no wonder he picked up skates at a young age — and he quickly found his favorite spot on the sheet.
“Apparently when I was starting to skate, I never left the net,” Dobes said.
Dobes started his career playing youth hockey with HC Vitkovice and Pirati Chomutov in the Czech Republic. He later moved to St. Louis to play for the St. Louis AAA Blues from 2017-19.
Dobes said he had to adapt to the American style of play with smaller ice and different competition.
“I feel like the hockey players here are better,” Dobes said.
Dobes moved on to the United States Hockey League and played for the Omaha Lancers in 2020-21, earning Second Team All-USHL.
In the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Dobes was selected No. 136 in the fifth round by Montreal.
“It was a special day,” Dobes said. “I was just home playing video games and I got a call that I was drafted in the fifth round. It was something that I cannot really describe. It was just something that pays off after a lot of years of hard work.”
After the draft, Dobes headed to Ohio State. He said he always wanted to play for a Big Ten program and “it’s a dream come true” to realize his aspiration.
So far, he has a record of 8-3 with a save rate of .931. Dobes’ professionalism has already left an impression on his teammates.
“To have that kind of talent in our room is truly special,” junior forward Jaedon Leslie said. “Having that NHL name attached to them is a great attestment to who they are as a player and person.”
With success, however, comes added pressures for Dobes.
Dobes said he works hard every day to try and get better. So far, early returns have proven positive as Dobes has helped Ohio State remain in the hunt atop the Big Ten Conference.
“I feel it is getting better every season,” he said. “I think everything is working for me. If I work on my technique, I think I will be fine going to the future.”