Trial by fire.
Those three words personify the Ohio State hockey team more than any other as it gets set to begin its 2015-16 campaign this week.
The departure of 10 players — eight by graduation, one leaving the program and another signing a contract into the American Hockey League with Rockford — opened the door for 10 freshmen to kickstart their collegiate careers.
Senior captain and defenseman Craig Dalrymple said he realizes that with only three seniors on this year’s team, it’s imperative that he and the other upperclassmen get the new guys up to speed as quickly as possible.
“It’s just about getting to know them,” Dalrymple said. “You’ve got to bring all 10 of those guys into your team as fast as you can whether that’s creating relationships on the ice and off the ice. Hopefully they have the want to buy into this program as well.”
Once they do buy in, they have to adapt to a whole new level of play.
“This is a whole new animal,” Dalrymple said. “The college hockey game is a whole lot faster. There’s a lot less games (than in junior hockey), so the energy in the games are amped up twice as much. It’s going to take one, maybe two weekends to get them all into it. The sooner we can get everyone into it as a team, the better we’re going to do right off the hop, which will benefit us in the long run.”
Senior captain and forward Anthony Greco has played in 89 games over the past three seasons. He’s been through enough ups and downs with the program to be able to lead the young team in the right direction.
“It’s funny, because you’re sort of able to see the way you acted as a freshman, and now you’re an older guy and you have a grasp on the way you should be dealing with everything,” Greco said chuckling. “You don’t want to change the way they play the game. You want them to play their game but make sure that they’re team first.”
So far, so good after the first weekend.
OSU defeated Brock University 4-0 in an exhibition contest on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. The game saw a goal and two assists chipped in by the freshman class.
Freshman forward Freddy Gerard popped home the first of the four goals on the night for OSU at the 9:21 mark of the first period. Sophomore Matthew Weis and freshman Tommy Parran assisted on the goal.
Mason Jobst contributed the other assist by a freshman on sophomore Luke Stork’s goal with 3:41 remaining in the second period. His classmate Christian Lampasso assisted on the goal as well after setting Stork up in the slot area with a feed from behind the net.
It was a game thoroughly dominated by the Scarlet and Gray, as the Buckeyes outshot the visiting Badgers 43-15.
Junior goaltenders Christian Frey and Matt Tomkins split time in the dual shutout effort. Frey started and made nine saves, while Tomkins had cleanup duty, stopping all six shots sent his way.
Although the regular season hasn’t officially started yet, Gerard says that this year’s freshman class is already a tight-knit group.
“There’s a lot of chemistry going on,” Gerard said. “We’re a really close freshman class. We’re all brothers already. We’ve been here for two months now and we’ve all been working hard as a team.”
That chemistry will be needed in full force right off the bat for the Buckeyes.
With arguably the toughest nonconference schedule in the nation, OSU is scheduled to take on No. 16 Bowling Green and No. 11 Miami (Ohio) in a home-and-home series to begin the year.
The Buckeyes are then set to travel to play defending national champion and seventh-ranked Providence.
Following a late November weekend series at No. 10 Nebraska-Omaha, the Buckeyes face off against No. 1 Boston College in the Florida College Classic in late December.
For OSU coach Steve Rohlik, it doesn’t matter if his team is playing the No. 1 team every weekend. He expects his players to bring their “A” game every time they hit the ice.
“My expectations are to go out and to be the hardest team to play against and give everything we’ve got every night,” Rohlik said. “I’m trying to instill that into these young guys and hopefully the culture with our older guys brings that. Where that leads us? I’m not sure.”
What is sure is that the questions surrounding this team will soon be answered.
Puck drop between OSU and Bowling Green is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at the Schottenstein Center.