After four years filled with countless achievements and even more memories, four members of the Ohio State men’s hockey team are preparing for their final home games in the Scarlet and Gray.
The Buckeyes (15-11-4, 5-7-4) are set to recognize seniors Alex Szczechura, Travis Statchuk, Alex Lippincott and Curtis Gedig this weekend as they welcome No. 1 Minnesota (23-4-5, 12-2-2) to Columbus.
Szczechura, the team’s fifth-highest scorer, sustained an injury last Sunday against Michigan and won’t get to play in this final home stand OSU coach Steve Rohlik said.
“(It’s) disappointing,” Rohlik said. “He’s certainly put the time and the effort in here and he deserves to be out there … he’ll be with us out there, he’ll be out there on the ice to get recognized but certainly we’ll miss him out there on the ice.”
Rohlik said he’s seeking the right balance of emotion and focus from his players for this important series.
“I think the team wants to play well for (the seniors),” Rohlik said. “It’s my job not only to: one, make sure our team recognizes what (the seniors) mean to this program but two, to keep things in check … and control our emotions and go out there in the right frame of mind.”
The quartet of seniors is set to be recognized in a ceremony before Saturday’s game, but Statchuk said the reality of his OSU career ending wouldn’t hit him until much later.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Once the season ends and you’re cleaning out your stall as a senior, I think that’s when it’s really going to settle in,” Statchuk said. “I’ll probably (be) a little emotional, that’s for sure.”
The Buckeyes gained two points last weekend in their home-and-home series with Michigan, and currently sit five points behind the Wolverines in fourth place in the Big Ten. Meanwhile the Gophers continued their strong campaign with a sweep of Penn State, and are now seven points clear of second-place Wisconsin.
Facing the nation’s No. 1 team while trying to climb in the standings might not be an ideal situation, but Rohlik said his team is eager to test themselves, no matter who the opponent is.
“If you want to get to the national tournament, you’ve got to beat the best teams no matter who they are,” Rohlik said. “It’s a great challenge for our guys and I think they’re looking forward (to) it.”
When the Buckeyes and Gophers met earlier in the season in Minneapolis, OSU proved themselves to be worthy opponents. In the first game, Minnesota’s sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox kept his second shutout of the season as his team won 1-0. OSU had a two-goal lead in the second game before junior forward Sam Warning netted a hat-trick as the home team ran out 4-2 winners.
Since that second game against the Gophers, the Buckeyes are 4-3-3, and Statchuk said this weekend is a great chance for the team to show its credentials with only four games left in the season.
“We’re excited to get out there and show the rest of the league and the country that we deserve to be where we want to be,” Statchuk said. “Obviously we have beat the No. 1-ranked team to get there but that’s a challenge we’re willing to accept.”
Friday’s game is set for 7:30 p.m., and the puck is set to drop at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.