Abby Sweet / For the Lantern
On a 10-game winless streak with four games left in the regular season and one of its top players suspended, one might think it is time for the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team to start panicking.
OSU senior defenseman and co-captain Sean Duddy said otherwise.
“It’s not panic, but there is definitely some frustration,” Duddy said. “It is more of a sense of desperation. We didn’t have that for 60 minutes of desperation hockey (Saturday). Panic isn’t the right word. We know what we have in the locker room.”
What OSU has in the locker room is a team full of underclassmen. A total of 19 freshman and sophomores make up a Buckeye roster with only nine juniors and seniors.
One of the few upperclassmen, senior forward Danny Dries, has been suspended indefinitely. Dries is one of OSU’s best offensive threats, as he is second on the team in points (21), second in goals (12) and third in power-play scores (4).
“He broke team rules,” said OSU coach Mark Osiecki. “It’s one of those things where we sat down with him, our team, administrators. He’s been suspended, and we’re not sure when or if there will be a return.”
The No. 15-ranked Buckeyes, 0-6-4 in their past 10 games, are winless in 2012 and were swept by Michigan State, 6-3 and 3-2, respectively, Friday and Saturday.
Osiecki attributed a lot of the Buckeyes’ recent woes to the team being young, saying the team presses too much to get erase deficits on the scoreboard.
“I think they are (pressing). A lot of times we’re leaning on, you know, (freshman forward Max) McCormick, (freshman forward Tanner) Fritz, (freshman forward Ryan) Dzingel on the power play there, (and sophomore forward Chris) Crane quite a bit. Those guys are all young. That’s where it’s hard,” Osiecki said.
Inexperienced or not, OSU has found itself in a position that it likely doesn’t want to be in.
After holding a seven-point lead in first place in the CCHA in early January, OSU (14-10-5, 10-9-5-1 CCHA) is in a tie for fourth place in the conference and is five points back of first-place Ferris State.
The top five teams in the conference receive a first-round bye in the CCHA tournament that begins in March, with the top four teams all guaranteed at least one home game in the league championship.
During the winless streak, the Buckeyes have only gained four out of a possible 30 points to be had. OSU has been outscored 32-19 over the past 10 games, after scoring 35 goals during a nine-game winning streak in November.
Duddy said he hopes everything the Buckeyes have gone through this season will provide dividends when the postseason starts.
“This has been a great learning experience (for the underclassmen). It’s tough throwing so much responsibility on the young guys, but they have been in that position in junior hockey. Hopefully this translates and something clicks going into the playoffs,” he said.
Fritz, the Buckeyes’ top goal-scorer (5) over the past four games, said it is time for himself and his fellow freshman to grow up.
“We had some disappointing results as a team, but going forward we need to get after it,” he said. “The freshmen need to start playing like sophomores.”
OSU will look to end their winless streak this weekend with a two-game series against Western Michigan, starting Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Kalamazoo, Mich.