Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
With just six games left in the regular season, the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team, which sits fifth in the CCHA standings, will host second-place Western Michigan this weekend for a two-game series.
OSU freshman defenseman Craig Dalrymple said he knows the Broncos are not satisfied with their standing in the conference and will play with a mission.
“You obviously want home ice throughout the playoffs. They’re sitting at the top. They’re going to want to take that CCHA crown,” Dalrymple said.
The Buckeyes have plenty to play for as well, as the league’s top five clubs will receive a bye in the CCHA Tournament.
Junior forward Travis Statchuk said earning a bye would be “a great accomplishment and a great advantage” for his team.
OSU returns home for four games after its trip to Alaska last weekend, where the Buckeyes won once and lost once. The players are battling the effects of returning home from a time zone four hours behind.
Coach Mark Osiecki, who played collegiately at Wisconsin, said he remembers the difficulties of playing just one week after competing in Alaska.
“That turnaround was tough. It was always very difficult after you’ve played Alaska,” Osiecki said. “More mentally than anything, we have to make sure we’re fresh.”
Freshman defenseman Sam Jardine, who “didn’t get a whole lot of sleep (Monday) night” thanks to jet lag, said no excuses will be made once Western Michigan arrives.
“I think it’s that time of the year that we know we have to be sharp regardless of the conditions,” Jardine said.
The Broncos, who rank third nationally with 1.83 goals allowed per game, are strong defensively and on special teams.
“They are going to make some progress on their power play,” Osiecki said. “They do a nice job on their penalty kill.”
Osiecki said playing “extremely disciplined” hockey is key when facing a “well-coached team” like Western Michigan coach Andy Murray’s squad.
Staying disciplined and out of the penalty box will be a major point of emphasis for OSU this weekend.
“I think our depth is good. Our depth is part of our strength,” Osiecki said. “If you start getting in penalty situations, where you have to shorten your bench, it makes it very difficult.”
Multiple players said they are excited to play a pivotal home series this late in the season.
“If we do well this weekend we can jump up there in the standings,” Statchuk said. “There is a lot on the line. We have a great opportunity here.”
Game one of the series is set for Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.