Lantern file photo
It’s a new season.
That’s the attitude the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team has heading into the postseason.
OSU (15-13-5, 11-12-5-1 CCHA) is the No. 9 seed in the upcoming CCHA tournament and will face No. 8-seed Notre Dame (17-16-3, 12-13-3-0 CCHA) in a best-of-three series in South Bend, Ind., starting Friday.
“We talked about it right away at the beginning of the year. We talked about the only thing that really matters is the playoffs,” said OSU coach Mark Osiecki.
The Buckeyes ended the regular season on a 1-9-4 skid after being in first place in the CCHA with a 14-4-1 record and No. 2 national ranking in early January. OSU, tied for the No. 18 ranking in the PairWise with the Fighting Irish, which helps select and seed schools for the 16-team NCAA Tournament, likely needs to beat Notre Dame and possibly their second-round opponent in the conference tournament, to have a chance to compete for a national championship.
“It’s a new season now, what happened in the regular season doesn’t matter at all,” said OSU senior defenseman and co-captain Sean Duddy. “So we’re just kind of throwing the win-loss record out of there, and we’re 0-0 right now.”
Along with wanting to start fresh, OSU has developed an “us-against-the-world mentality” with its postseason life on the line.
“I think it’s great for our players,” Osiecki said. “Certainly you’re not going to get great bounces and probably not going to get the reffing to go on your side, especially when you’re on the road. I think our team likes that challenge. I think being the underdog, being as young as we are, I think they relish that.”
Duddy said the key to success this weekend will be the team playing to its strengths.
“The games where we tried to get too fancy are the game’s where we didn’t have success,” he said. “We’ve got to play the way that we can play, the way we need to play, which is being physical and keeping it simple.”
Getting off to a fast start in the first period could help OSU as well. The Buckeyes have given up the first goal of the game in each of their past four losses, and have only led after the first 20 minutes in three of their past 14 games.
Duddy said scoring early and being able to play with a lead would be a major emotional lift for the team.
“Playing with a lead, especially in playoffs where the games are all so tight, it’s really defensive minded … if you can get that first goal, it’s huge for momentum. It’s huge playing with a lead. We’d definitely like to do that,” he said.
Duddy himself and his fellow teammates are looking forward to giving everything they have on the ice this weekend.
“It’s lose and you’re done basically. So everyone’s putting it all on the line,” he said. “There’s nothing to save it for.”
The Buckeyes and Fighting Irish will drop the puck at 7:35 p.m. Friday in South Bend and play again Saturday at the same time. If necessary, game three of the series will be played Sunday at 7:05 p.m.