Courtesy of OSU
In what was a stunning move to some, Mark Osiecki is out as the Ohio State men’s hockey coach.
OSU announced Monday morning that the 44-year-old would not return to his position after three years in Columbus.
“We are making a change in our head hockey coaching position,” said OSU athletic director Gene Smith in a released statement. “There was a difference of opinion over the management of the program that could not be resolved.”
Osiecki guided the Buckeyes to a 16-17-7 overall record and a fourth place finish in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association this season. OSU beat Ferris State in the quarterfinal round of the CCHA playoffs before losing to Notre Dame at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The appearance in the conference’s semifinal round was the program’s first since 2005.
One of Osiecki’s former players was dismayed by the move.
“I was pretty surprised to hear it. I thought coach Osiecki was a fantastic role model for me and was obviously a great person,” former goalie Cal Heeter told The Lantern Monday.
Heeter played for Osiecki at OSU during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, and is currently a member of the Philadelphia Flyers organization. The net tender has the third best save percentage in Buckeye history.
“(Osiecki) was one of the best leaders for me, not just as a player but as a person. He helped me mature and grow up and become a better hockey player, on and off the ice,” Heeter said.
Replacing John Markell in 2010, Osiecki compiled a 46-50-16 record at OSU. In both of his first two seasons in Columbus, the Buckeyes earned the No. 9 seed in the CCHA playoffs and were swept out of the first round. OSU jumped out to a fast start to the 2011-12 campaign in which OSU rose to a No. 2 national ranking by January.
Osiecki recruited well, bringing in high-caliber players such as rising junior forwards Ryan Dzingel, Max McCormick, Tanner Fritz – the conference’s leading scorer – and first-team all-American senior goalie Brady Hjelle.
The program has lacked some of the features elite college hockey programs possess, though.
OSU often plays in front of small crowds at the Schottenstein Center. The Buckeyes, with no practice facility of their own, usually have to bus across the Olentangy River to train at the OSU Ice Rink, built in 1961. The Buckeyes were forced to play their playoff series against Ferris State this season at the Ice Rink, which seats 1,000, due to a scheduling conflict at the Schottenstein Center.
A 4,000 seat hockey-centric arena is in the planning stages, Smith told The Lantern during an exclusive interview in March.
Osiecki and his squad, however, witnessed the basketball teams getting a $22 million facility renovation at the Schottenstein Center this year.
In an interview with “Buckeye Sports Bulletin,” Osiecki said there had been no conflict with administration regarding the state of the program or its facilities.
“Nothing led up to (the firing),” Osiecki told BSB. “There weren’t any discussions leading up to that. Where we stood as a staff, we felt good about the players. We felt great about the kids that were coming in and the families. The kids were all doing it the right way.”
According to OSU, associate head hockey coach Steve Rohlik “will be the primary point person for the program, student-athletes and recruits” until Osiecki’s replacement is hired.
“I don’t see there being a step back (with the program), but I think those are going to be tough shoes to fill,” Heeter said.
Next season, OSU begins Big Ten play, joining Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin to form the conference’s first hockey league.
Osiecki did not return The Lantern’s multiple requests for comment.