Eric Beiersdorfer / Lantern photographer
The Ohio State-Michigan football game is more than a week away, but the bitter rivalry between both schools will be in action this weekend on the ice.
The No. 14 OSU men’s hockey team (8-3-1, 5-2-1) will face No. 7 Michigan (7-3-2, 3-3-2), in a two-game series starting Friday night in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Buckeyes, ranked for the first time this season, are currently on a five-game winning streak and unbeaten in their last seven games.
OSU head coach Mark Osiecki is looking forward to the test facing Michigan on the road will pose for his team.
“We know what to expect playing against Michigan,” he said. “We expect a well-coached team, and a team that plays at a high level and competes.”
Playing at Michigan is always fun for senior forward Danny Dries, a Michigan native.
“Being from around there, it’s always fun to have family and friends around and play in front of them,” he said. “It’s a pretty fun environment. Youcan’t let it intimidate you.”
Senior goalie Cal Heeter said that playing Michigan is special because of the historic rivalry between the two schools, but that the real importance of the games are the conference points that could be gained.
“We have to realize and respect the rivalry for both schools. On top of that, the CCHA points are important for this team,” he said.
OSU is currently tied for second in the CCHA with 17 points. Michigan has 12 points and stands alone in sixth place.
Osiecki attributes the recent success to players gelling and coming together as one.
“Whether they’ve had a lot of playing time or a little, they’ve done well,” he said.
One of the things OSU has done well is play disciplined. OSU has had a season-low four penalties in each of their past four games. When the Buckeyes have had to play a man down during the five-game winning streak, they’ve been perfect, killing all 19 of their opponents’ power plays.
“We have done some things in practice to make our guys move their feet and keep their sticks down,” Osiecki said. “I think that has been a big factor in us being smart and knowing we can play hard and stay out of the penalty box.”
The Buckeyes have been no slouch on the offensive end either, outscoring their opponents, 27-6, during the seven-game unbeaten streak. OSU leads the CCHA with 3.38 goals per game in conference play.
Heeter said he enjoys having a potent offense play in front of him, but that it can be tough to get into the flow of the game when he doesn’t have to make a ton of saves.
“It’s different, it’s tough for sure,” he said. “It’s just a different element, something you have to get used to.”
Michigan is second in the CCHA with 3.25 goals per game, and posted a season-high 10 goals in a game against St. Lawrence in October.
OSU and Michigan are set to take the ice at 7:35 p.m. Friday and play again Saturday night.