The Ohio State men’s hockey team is gearing up for the Schottenstein Center for the first time in two months, where it will host No. 6 Michigan at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The Buckeyes are looking to stretch their unbeaten run to five games against the Wolverines and their NCAA-best offense.
The Scarlet and Gray (6-11-1, 1-2-1) and the Blue and Maize (13-3-3, 5-1-1) then conclude the home-and-home series Sunday at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at 5 p.m.
The last time the bitter rivals faced off was late last February in another home-and-home series. OSU took the first game in Columbus 5-3, while Michigan responded with a 5-2 victory in Ann Arbor.
OSU senior forward Anthony Greco said he relishes the opportunity to go head to head against the Wolverines again.
“They’re always fun,” he said. “Especially, you know, in either building, going there it’s always a great atmosphere, and then obviously here we get, usually, a big draw of people. It’s always an amazing game to look forward and be excited about.”
The Buckeyes’ top scorer, junior forward Nick Schilkey, a Michigan native, said he’ll be in contact with a few Wolverines prior to Friday’s matchup.
“Yeah there’s a couple guys, I haven’t talked to them yet,” Schilkey said. “(Junior forward) Alex Kile is the one that I’ve played with for a really long time, we always keep in touch.”
Schilkey currently leads the Buckeyes in points with 18, coming from a team-leading 10 goals and third-best eight assists. The product of Marysville, Michigan — which is less than 100 miles from Ann Arbor — scored OSU’s fifth goal against the Wolverines in last year’s encounter in Columbus.
OSU will have its work cut out for it against the Wolverines. Michigan is averaging an NCAA-leading 4.68 goals per game, while holding its opponents to an average of 2.48 per game. The Wolverines’ danger man will likely be freshman Kyle Connor, who leads the Wolverines with 31 points, generated from a team-high 15 goals and second-best 16 assists. Additionally, he is ranked fourth nationally in points per game at 1.63.
It will be the first time in two months OSU will be back at the Schottenstein Center. Their last match in Columbus was a 6-4 victory over Canisius on Nov. 14. Starting with Friday’s showdown, seven of the Buckeyes’ next eight games will be at home.
“I think it’s just nice to be home,” Greco said. “We’ve been traveling quite a lot these last two months, so to not have to go through airport security for a while and just come to the rink and practice at the Schott and being able to go out on the ice is a little bit more comfortable for us and I think we’re happy with that.”
Scorching Scarlet and Gray
OSU coach Steve Rohlik is looking to continue the current run of good form, as he said he tries to move his team on from a rough beginning to the season.
“Well I mean confidence is a funny word, we’re talking about feeling good and feeling confident in our hockey games because our expectation are to go out there and win, and I’ve said this before, we’re trying to learn from the first half, which wasn’t good enough,” Rohlik said.
The Buckeyes’ last four games have included two victories over ranked opponents. Playing at the Florida College Classic in Estero, Florida, OSU knocked off then-No. 4-ranked Boston College 3-2 on Dec. 28. They followed that up the next day with an 8-0 thrashing of then-No. 9 Cornell.
Entering January, OSU played Wisconsin on back-to-back days in Madison, Wisconsin, resulting in a 2-0 victory and a 4-4 tie.
“Whether it’s (Boston College), Cornell, or whoever it is, Wisconsin, it’s about the parity in college hockey,” Rohlik said regarding the upsets. “I mean, yeah, the numbers are there for their ranking but what we talk about is we got to play our best hockey to beat whoever we play. Certainly if we go out and play our best hockey we have a chance against anybody.”
After the home-and-home series with their archrivals, the Buckeyes are set to welcome Penn State for a pair of games at the Schottenstein Center on Jan. 22 and 23. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. for both contests.