Ohio State men’s hockey coach Steve Rohlik had a simple message for his team heading into its matchup with Penn State.
“I told our guys, ‘Chop down a tree today,’” Rohlik said after Saturday’s game. Though his use of such a metaphor could come off as confusing to some, his team must have gotten the message.
The Buckeyes (14-9-1, 4-5-1-0) made efficient work of cutting down the Nittany Lions (4-17-1, 0-8-0-0), sweeping them in a weekend at the Schottenstein Center.
OSU was met with some resistance to begin Saturday’s encounter, as the Nittany Lions held a two-goal advantage heading into the second period.
But then the Buckeyes went to work, chopping away at the deficit just as Rohlik intended.
Junior forwards Tanner Fritz and Ryan Dzingel scored power play goals in the second period before sophomore forward Anthony Greco posted a goal of his own for the go-ahead late in the period.
Two more goals in the third put an exclamation point on the comeback win, one that showed Rohlik what his team can do.
“I saw a hockey team grow up today. I’m proud of these guys,” Rohlik said. “They never panicked. They got in the locker room, talked about what we needed to do and got back to the basics.”
Freshman goalie Christian Frey started both games on the weekend, making a career-high 46 saves Friday night as OSU dominated the Nittany Lions in a 5-1 win.
Frey, who was added to the OSU roster in December because of injuries and the departure of sophomore Collin Olson for the USHL, has won five of his six starts and said he is enjoying his switch to college hockey.
“It’s weird coming to a new team halfway through the year,” Frey said after Friday’s win. “But the guys have been great to me and I feel like it’s been a smooth transition.”
Dzingel and fellow junior forward Max McCormick led the way with two goals each as the Buckeyes had another three goal second period that put the game beyond doubt.
McCormick said the Buckeyes know what they are capable of and just want to live up to their own expectations.
“We know we have (potential) in our locker room,” McCormick said. “It’s just a matter of if we execute the things that (our) coaches are asking us to do.”
Saturday’s game was a special day for the OSU men’s hockey program as it celebrated its 50th anniversary. Three members of the inaugural team participated in a ceremonial puck drop, while the All-Buckeye Team was recognized during the first intermission.
Rohlik was quick to recognize how important the history of the program is to the current team.
“Those (alumni) are the reason we’re here, they put the bricks in the wall,” Rohlik said. “We’re just carrying the torch for this program.”
Whether it’s carrying the torch or chopping down trees, this OSU team is doing it all with confidence.
The Buckeyes are back on the road next weekend to face Michigan State. Friday’s game is set for 6:30 p.m. and Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m.