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Freshmen contributing in big ways for Ohio State men’s hockey

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Pucks take funky bounces, sticks break in crucial moments and ice surfaces can vary from location to location.

Home ice advantage is visible in numerous buildings, but perhaps no other arena better demonstrates the buoyant lift of enthused supporters better than Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.

After his team played in the acclaimed arena Saturday night, Ohio State men’s hockey coach Steve Rohlik had no doubt of its place within the game.

“This is the best atmosphere, to me, in college hockey,” Rohlik said in an interview with U.S. College Hockey Online. “The student section doesn’t compare anywhere else.”

That’s what makes the Buckeyes’ 3-1 win over the Badgers Saturday night so impressive. Faced with that atmosphere and a four-game winless streak, OSU (12-9-1, 2-5-1-0) managed to hand No. 9 Wisconsin (14-7-1, 5-3-0-0) only its second home loss of the season.

In a place where it pays to have experience, it turned out to be some of the younger Buckeyes who played a significant part in the win.

First there was freshman goalie Christian Frey who, in only his fourth career start, made 36 saves to hold a team tied for fifth in the nation in scoring to just one goal.

Though his performance has drawn a lot of praise, Frey said he couldn’t have done it alone.

“The guys in front of me made it easy,” Frey said. “We really pulled together as a team and played a great team game, and it was a big win.”

With Frey holding down the defensive end of things, it was freshman forward Nick Schilkey who had a big hand in leading the Buckeyes’ attack. Schilkey skated nearly the length of the ice to score the game’s tying goal, then helped set up junior forward Nick Oddo to score the winning marker.

Schilkey said he aims to be as consistent as possible while also helping out in the goal-scoring department whenever he can.

“I try to play well defensively and make sure I’m not being a liability out there,” Schilkey said. “When I get a weekend like this past one, it’s nice to see things pay off.”

Frey, who was added to the roster in December, said he experienced the togetherness of this OSU team from day one.

“All the guys are unbelievable,” Frey said. “I think it’s been an awesome experience for me and I’m really glad I came here.”

With freshmen like Frey and Schilkey combining with seasoned upperclassmen, OSU seems to have found a winning formula.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons Rohlik had a smile on his face after Saturday’s game. It seemed as if he realized a performance like that — one where every player stood up to the challenge — could really shape the Buckeyes’ season.

“I’m proud of the guys that stepped up in the lineup tonight,” Rohlik said in the interview with U.S. College Hockey Online. “I think the NFL says it now, ‘It’s the next man standing.’ That’s kind of been our attitude from goalies, to (defensemen), to forwards, whoever.”

Next up the Buckeyes are scheduled to host a weekend series against Penn State (4-15-1, 0-6-0) Friday at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

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