Pat Brennan / Sports editor
The 2011 edition of the Ohio State men’s hockey team is rebranded with new uniforms and helmets and reloaded — they’ve added 13 freshmen and even rebuilt — the team has a new lounge for the players.
These subjects, along with the much-anticipated Jan. 15 Frozen Diamond Faceoff against Michigan, were hot topics at the team’s Media Day on Wednesday.
OSU coach Mark Osiecki will look to improve on the team’s 15-18-4 record from the 2010-11 season, which ended with a first-round loss in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
Senior goalie Cal Heeter, who started every game for the Buckeyes last season and recorded a 2.30 goals against average, said the team is striving for a better winter and is using the team’s early exit from the playoffs as motivation.
“We were a little disappointed with last season with how it ended, you know, losing in the first round of the playoffs there,” Heeter said. “We absolutely expect to be better this year.”
Osiecki said he thinks his players have the attitude necessary to improve.
“We want a really, really high level of compete from our guys,” Osiecki said. “And we want our guys to be relentless from the drop of the puck to the final buzzer, and I think these guys have that.”
The Buckeyes were picked to finish seventh out of 11 teams in the CCHA preseason coach’s poll and ninth by the media.
Osiecki said his lone concern is his team.
“We’ll worry about ourselves,” he said. “If we compete as hard as we go against each other right now, we’ll be fine. We want to worry about ourselves.”
Senior forward Cory Schneider, who tallied 11 points and was voted the team’s Most Improved Player last season, figures to help lead the Buckeyes this season.
With 13 newcomers to the program, Schneider will have plenty of people to lead.
“We have a great freshman class,” Schneider said. “They were in here over the summer, so now it’s getting more into the hockey part. We’ve got to never quit and never stop working.”
While Schneider and his teammates are at work, they’ll be sporting some new jerseys.
The team’s wardrobe will include scarlet and white jerseys, as well as a gray jersey, a military-themed jersey, which will be auctioned off to benefit the armed forces, and a one-off special uniform for the team’s outdoor game against Michigan on Jan. 15.
“We did all of the (designing),” Osiecki said. “That’s one thing we did talk about from the marketing standpoint was branding. We wanted a change. We wanted a look … where we can keep that year after year.”
The team also unveiled new helmets that are designed to emulate OSU football’s helmets.
Osiecki said that with the new uniforms, fans will be able to recognize the Buckeyes when they take the ice both at home and on the road.
The biggest road game of the year, of course, will take place at the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field against Michigan in a game dubbed the Frozen Diamond Faceoff.
Schneider said the opportunity to play in the outdoor game will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It’s really exciting,” he said. “Anytime you see the Winter Classic or a college outdoor game, you’re just watching and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, I’d love to be out there doing –. I’d love to have an opportunity to do that. Now that we finally do, it’s just awesome.
“Obviously, it’s a long way away, It’s definitely something that we can’t wait for.”
The Buckeyes have 22 games before the outdoor contest against Michigan. In the interim, senior defenseman Sean Duddy said he promised an entertaining brand of hockey for students and other fans to look forward to.
“We’re going to play our butts off every game for you guys,” Duddy said. “We’re going to try to be an exciting team.”
The Buckeyes open the regular season on Oct. 7 against Quinnipiac.