Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern Photographer
Crunch time. Do or die. Win or go home. Whatever sports cliché you can think of for needing to win, the unranked Ohio State men’s hockey team is at the point of using it.
“It’s getting to that time of year where points are really becoming important,” said junior forward Cory Schneider. “The league standings are pretty tight, so this is a huge series for us.”
Under the weight of the series, even OSU coach Mark Osiecki jumped onto the cliché bandwagon.
“It’s starting to get down to crunch time,” he said, “and people are looking for points.”
The Buckeyes have won six of their last eight games — including a sweep of then-No. 7 Miami (Ohio) on Jan. 7–8 — and will look to continue on that track this weekend against No. 8 Notre Dame.
The series between Notre Dame (15-8-3, 12-5-1) and OSU (12-9-2, 7-7-2) will be the Buckeyes’ third straight against a team ranked in the top 20.
But they aren’t complaining about it.
“It’s fun,” Osiecki said. “I think it’s great for our guys.”
Osiecki said his players don’t let the tough matchups mess with their heads.
“They’re pretty focused,” he said. “You don’t have to say much during the week — they know what’s coming at them.”
Osiecki said he also knows that to beat the Fighting Irish, his Buckeyes can’t stray from who they are and begin to worry about the other team.
“If we started to worry about what Notre Dame is doing,” he said, “we’re in trouble.”
This week’s series is especially important because of the team’s performance against Western Michigan last weekend. The Buckeyes left “that state up north” with a 4-2 loss Friday and a 2-2 tie Saturday, which they clinched, 2-1, in a shootout.
Senior forward John Albert said the team didn’t play as well as it should have, despite pulling off a shootout win, but that it shouldn’t dwell on its subpar effort.
“We can’t look back at last weekend and be down on ourselves,” he said.
Osiecki agreed, focusing on the team’s improved effort Saturday.
“We did not play well in the first two periods Friday night. Certainly it was not our best effort,” Osiecki said. “We certainly played a lot better on Saturday.”
Osiecki said that rather than focusing on whom they’re playing, the Buckeyes are focusing on how they’re playing leading up to this weekend’s series.
OSU will face off against Notre Dame at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.