Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
Ohio State men’s ice hockey coach Mark Osiecki maintained the ebbs and flows of this season haven’t unnerved his team.
But a sweep against Lake Superior State last weekend likely boosted their spirits.
“I don’t think our guys have lost any confidence (all year), but it certainly helps to win,” Osiecki said. “Now we have to turn the page and get ready for the Irish.”
The Buckeyes are set to host Notre Dame for a two-game series this Friday and Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.
After all, only five points separate OSU and the Irish in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
And, in the process, OSU might have a chance at upsetting the No. 11 team in the country.
The Fighting Irish (16-10-0, 12-6-0-0 CCHA), losers of five of their last six games, have recently dropped from first to third in the CCHA standings. The Buckeyes, coming off back-to-back wins against the Lakers, sit sixth out of the league’s 11 teams.
The weekend will showcase the teams’ only two meetings of the regular season.
Goals will likely be at a premium all weekend as both teams are in the top seven schools in the country in goals allowed per game.
OSU junior forward Alex Szczechura said scoring first in the game, as his team did twice last weekend, is crucial.
“It’s something we really emphasize, jumping on teams early on. We’ve struggled with that in the past,” Szczechura said.
Osiecki said he hopes to break through the stingy Notre Dame defense with the pace of his players’ attack.
“Our strength is our transition, and our strength is our speed,” Osiecki said.
Although Notre Dame’s defense has allowed .08 fewer goals per game than OSU’s defense has this season, the advantage between the posts goes to the Buckeyes. OSU senior goalie Brady Hjelle is second in the conference to Miami’s Ryan McKay in both goals-against average (1.60) and save percentage (0.946). McKay, though, has only played nine games this season, compared to Hjelle’s 32. Hjelle was named CCHA Goaltender of the Week for the fourth time this season after making 64 saves in the sweep of Lake Superior State.
The series marks the tail end of a four-game home stand for OSU. Junior defenseman Curtis Gedig said he loves the Schottenstein Center’s atmosphere as well as other aspects of playing in Columbus.
“Guys are a lot more positive in a way,” Gedig said. “We don’t have to worry about catching up on school because we’re traveling.”
OSU is set to open its series with Notre Dame Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: January 31, 2013
An earlier version of this story said that OSU’s men’s hockey won back-to-back games against Northern Michigan last weekend. They actually played Lake Superior State.