For the Ohio State men’s hockey team, achieving success stems from one simple mentality.
“This group doesn’t expect to go on and keep games close — they expect to win hockey games.”
Those are the words of OSU coach Steve Rohlik, who has seen that winning disposition manifest itself in his team’s performances so far this season.
Not only have the Buckeyes have won eight of their last 11 games, they’ve also been scoring at a formidable rate of 3.83 goals per game so far this season, the third-best such statistic in the nation.
Among all the scoring success, the junior class’ on-ice performance sticks out the most. Four of the team’s top five goal scorers are juniors, and OSU’s junior class collectively averages more points per game — 5.89 — than any other group of junior players in the nation.
One of them is forward Ryan Dzingel, who leads the team and the Big Ten in scoring with 27 points. But despite his impressive play in the offensive zone, the Buckeyes’ alternate captain said he thinks the influence of his class isn’t just limited to those in leading roles.
“We have a big junior class,” Dzingel said. “So even the guys who aren’t (captains or alternate captains) show a lot of leadership.”
Fellow junior forward Max McCormick has seven goals to his credit, while juniors Nick Oddo and Darik Angeli have found the back of the net five times each.
Forward junior Tanner Fritz, another leading Buckeyes contributor, is tied with Dzingel for a team-high 14 assists. Fritz said he believes the growth the junior class has gone through is a result of the responsibilities placed on them from day one.
“We all came in together, and since we’ve been here, we’ve had a lot of responsibility,” Fritz said. “I feel like we’ve taken that well, and all of us have had personal success.”
Rohlik, who was an associate head coach on the OSU staff for three seasons before being named head coach before the 2013-14 season, said the playing time the juniors received when they were younger greatly helped them mature.
“They had to grow up in a hurry with us (coaches) throwing them right into the fire,” Rohlik said. “A lot of these guys have an awful lot of games under their belt.”
Fritz said he sees how the experience of growing up in the program together has made him and his teammates play so well together.
“I think that in any team you want to find chemistry,” Fritz said. “And the fact that we’ve been together for the last three years and have lived together and pretty much done everything together has helped us out a lot.”
Rohlik said there are many other “pieces to the puzzle” that have contributed to the team’s performances this season, but he does single out what the third-year players alone have done for the program.
“This (junior) class has come in and created a great culture … and I think it’s contagious.”
The class of juniors along with the rest of the Buckeyes are set to continue their season when they take on Minnesota Friday. Puck drop is slated at 9 p.m. at the Hockey City Classic in TCF Bank Stadium.