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Ohio State men’s hockey ‘in a good spirit’ despite winless start

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Then-sophomore forward Matt Johnson (26) takes a shot during a game against Western Michigan Feb. 15 at the Schottenstein Center. The teams tied, 1-1. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Then-sophomore forward Matt Johnson (26) takes a shot during a game against Western Michigan Feb. 15 at the Schottenstein Center. The teams tied, 1-1.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Stringing together a full game of consistently good hockey is at the top of the agenda for the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team as it prepares for a home-and-home series against Robert Morris this weekend.

“Our team’s in a good spot,” said coach Steve Rohlik, who has yet to record his first victory since taking over the team. “I think we’ve played good hockey, but I think our team realizes that we haven’t put together three good periods together in any of these games, and I think if we can come up with three good periods, then we’re going to like the result a lot better.”

The Buckeyes (0-3-0) also have to play without starting junior forward Tanner Fritz, who left OSU’s 4-3 loss against Bowling Green Oct. 15 due to an upper-body injury. Junior forward Matt Johnson said Fritz’ shoes will be easily filled because of the team’s “incredible” depth chart, though.

“Every game, everybody’s got to step up,” Johnson said. “Look at our depth chart. We have such a good depth chart that everybody’s got to be stepping up every day. Otherwise, you’re not going to be in the lineup.”

Rohlik said despite missing a central component of all four lines on the ice, all hope is not lost.

“When you lose a guy like that, you have to tweak some things,” Rohlik said. “This is also a positive — it’s going to give other guys opportunities and that’s what you need as a hockey team. We’re not just about one guy. We’re about a team, and this is an opportunity for someone else to step up and be a hero for us.”

Rohlik said two areas the team needs to improve are its special teams and power play opportunities, and that improvements will come with discipline, good habits and a competing factor.

“Games are won and lost with special teams, and there’s no secret,” Rohlik said. “We’ve got to get better in those areas on both sides of it. When we get our opportunities on a power play, we’ve got to come up with some big goals.”

The team’s power play will have to be spot-on because Robert Morris (0-2-1) has been one of the top penalty-killing units over the last few years, Rohlik said. That, coupled with their intensity over the course of a game, will be a test for the Buckeyes.

“They come in here, they’re ready to play every shift, they’re going to go bell-to-bell,” Rohlik said. “We’ve got to match that intensity, and we’ve got to be able to show up, and we’ve got to be the team that goes for all 60 minutes.”

Despite the Buckeyes’ three-game losing streak, junior forward Ryan Dzingel said the team’s morale hasn’t taken a dip as it heads into the series with the Colonials.

“Our mentality’s always the same thing: work hard and get better every single day,” Dzingel said. “We’re not worried about wins and losses right now. We’re just trying to get better every day, and hopefully that pays off.”

The Buckeyes are slated to play the home-and-home series at the Schottenstein Center Friday and in Pittsburgh Saturday. The puck is set to drop at 7:05 p.m. for both games.

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