The Ohio State men’s hockey team is set to travel to Minneapolis to take on reigning Big Ten champion Minnesota for a two-game series opening up conference play.
The Buckeyes (3-9) are coming off a weekend in which they were swept by sixth-ranked Nebraska-Omaha. For the Golden Gophers (4-7), it’s much of the same, as they’ve lost three straight games, including being swept at home by No. 7 St. Cloud State.
The stage is set for a rematch of last year’s Big Ten tournament semifinal, a game that the Golden Gophers won 3-0 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
One thing the Scarlet and Gray are looking to improve on is winning tight games. OSU trailed Nebraska-Omaha by one goal late in each game last weekend before an empty-net goal sealed its fate.
On Saturday night, the Buckeyes trailed the Mavericks 5-1 before almost completing a monumental comeback, bringing the score within one before losing 6-4.
OSU outshot Nebraska-Omaha 24-8 in the final period of Game 2, which left coach Steve Rohlik simply wanting answers as to why the Buckeyes were so dominant late in the game.
“The first answer was ‘desperation,’” Rohlik said. “That’s the key. We have to start desperate from the drop of the puck in the first period because it’s in us. We have shown a lot of glimpses of it. The consistency has to be there. We have been in one-goal games all year long. We have got to figure out how to play consistent and play desperate from the first period on.”
Minneapolis, we have a problem
Minnesota is one of college hockey’s premier programs, but right now it’s in a slump.
The Golden Gophers own 35 NCAA tournament berths, including four consecutive trips, 21 Frozen Four appearances and five NCAA titles, which means there’s undoubtedly a lot of pressure for coach Don Lucia to turn his Golden Gopher program around.
Given its 2-5 record at home, one might think it is bound to come out this weekend with a wounded-animal mentality.
“I think we should look at them in that way,” senior captain Anthony Greco said. “We have both struggled. Last weekend, we proved to ourselves the team that we can be and I think we need to take advantage of that against this team and come out firing right away.”
Rohlik knows all too well that lack of success in Minneapolis is not received positively.
“People forget how many people they have lost and how young they are,” Rohlik said. “They can’t be undefeated every year. They are very talented, very skilled, very young and they are a good hockey team. They are going through some of those growing pains as well.”
Minnesota’s roster contains 10 freshmen, including starting netminder Eric Schierhorn, five sophomores, 10 juniors and just three seniors.
OSU enters Minneapolis with an 0-6 record on the road this season.
A new season
Heading into conference play after a brutal nonconference slate of games, the young OSU team is looking forward to a change of pace and getting to play on one of college hockey’s biggest stages in Minnesota.
“The past is the past, you can’t change that but it is a new opportunity,” freshman forward Mason Jobst said. “Basically, preseason is over for us and now the real season starts. I’ve heard the boys talking in the locker room about how it is a whole different level. I’m excited to get out there and see what it’s all about.”
So far this season, Jobst has two goals, three assists and has quickly become OSU’s top faceoff man.
Friday’s game is something he said he has been looking forward to since he stepped onto campus.
“This is why I came to Ohio State, to play Big Ten hockey,” Jobst said.
Puck drop on Friday and Saturday is set for 8 p.m.
Early Christmas presents
- OSU is 3-19-1 all-time against the Golden Gophers.
- The only Buckeye win at Mariucci Arena came on Dec. 28, 1998, as the Scarlet and Gray beat the Gophers 6-5 in the Mariucci Classic.
- OSU is 14-21-6 in two seasons of Big Ten Conference play.
- Anthony Greco has points in five straight games, including three goals and four assists.