Tim Kubick / For The Lantern
Perhaps in time for its slate of weekend games against conference foe Northern Michigan, the Ohio State men’s hockey team might be hitting its stride.
Just ask OSU coach Mark Osiecki.
“Our last two days of practice have been the best of this season,” he said.
The Buckeyes (8-9-5, 7-4-3-1 CCHA) will have the chance to see if such preparation pays off against the Wildcats (9-10-4, 3-9-4-1 CCHA), which sit at the bottom of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
Conversely, OSU sits in a tie for fourth place in the conference with Ferris State after splitting a two-game series with the Bulldogs Friday and Saturday.
While OSU swept the Wildcats in an earlier series in November Columbus, sophomore forward Tanner Fritz, the team’s leader in assists, said the transition game will be key against a Northern Michigan squad that plays on one of the largest ice rinks in the conference by dimension.
“They’re a good team, they work hard,” Fritz said. “Especially on the big ice. We are going to have to use our speed and our transition … I think that will help us to be able to put pucks on net.”
In addition the apparently strong week of practice, Osiecki said he was happy to see the OSU returning to full strength from a series of injuries to various key players.
“It was a totally different atmosphere with the guys coming back,” he said.
One of those players continuing his return from injury is freshman defenseman Sam Jardine, who returned to action last weekend at Ferris State. Jardine said he agreed with Osiecki about the two practices being this season’s best and that it is better for the team as a whole when everyone is able to play.
“It’s healthy competition among teammates, that’s as far as every sport goes, really,” Jardine said. “Things have gotten pretty rough out there, and that just brings the team even closer.”
Osiecki said it was nice having Jardine back in the lineup as well as the rest of his teammates so the team can prepare for the stretch run.
“I think it’s good moving forward now to get some experience for a month before things really begin to amp up,” Osiecki said.
The teams meet at 7:35 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Berry Events Center.