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Men’s hockey: No. 12 Ohio State facing pivotal games against Michigan

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Ohio State senior forward Nick Schilkey winds a wrister from the left slot against Minnesota on Feb. 11 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports Editor

After sweeping Michigan State on the road last weekend, the No. 12 Ohio State men’s hockey team (16-8-6, 7-6-1-1) returns to the Schottenstein Center to welcome the visiting Michigan Wolverines for two conference clashes.

The Wolverines (9-16-3, 2-10-2-2) come into these matchups with a 1-7-3 record in their past 10 games, and have won just one game in 2017 — a 5-4 win over OSU on Feb. 3. Despite the string of shaky results, Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said the rivalry between the two programs is always prevalent on the field, court or ice, making victories harder to come by.

“It is our rival to the north, and no matter what sport you’re playing in one of these 36 here on campus against That Team Up North, there’s going to be the rivalry,” Rohlik said. “You can throw out all the records you want, no matter if it’s football and their records or hockey, the rivalry’s there and both teams know it.”

This weekend marks the second series between OSU and Michigan this season, with the first back on Feb. 3 and 4, ending in both teams splitting wins. Additionally, games featuring the Buckeyes and the Wolverines have provided a high number of pucks in the back of the net, with both sides tallying a combined 66 goals in their past six matchups.

With that in mind, senior forward and captain Nick Schilkey said that although his coach prefers the opposition to not light up the scoreboard, the Scarlet and Gray’s experience in these high-scoring affairs will be a key to six Big Ten points this weekend.

“It always seems to be a high-scoring game,” Schilkey said. “Coach always talks about how we’d rather be in those 3-2 games, those low-scoring games, but we’ve obviously been ready for those high-scoring games in the past. We’ve played in those games, and we’re confident we can get the job done.”

Six games remain on the regular-season schedule for OSU, including back-to-back series in Columbus before heading to Wisconsin for a final weekend series before the Big Ten tournament. With that, Rohlik said his squad controls its own destiny with important games down the stretch — starting with the first faceoff Friday night.

“To me, every game is a playoff game at this point,” Rohlik said. “From a short-term goal of winning a hockey game, to trying to keep a winning streak going, to try to catch your ultimate goal at the end of the year, it all comes down to winning hockey games — and right now, Friday is pretty important.”

Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center on Friday night and 5 p.m. on Saturday.

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