Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
With a chance at earning a bye in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament, the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team is set to conclude its regular-season home schedule with a two-game series against Michigan this weekend.
Saturday night will be Senior Night for five members of the Buckeyes’ 27-man roster.
OSU has gone 4-6 against the Wolverines in the past 10 games between the schools.
Senior goalie Brady Hjelle said he is excited for the combination of a bitter rival and Senior Weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to it, getting my family down here … hopefully we can get them some wins,” Hjelle said.
Coach Mark Osiecki said his players are “fired up,” but the magnitude of the series has drawbacks as well.
“We have to keep our emotions in check. The harder part is Parents’ Weekend, Senior Weekend. It’s always a tough battle because there is a lot of outside distractions that you normally don’t have,” Osiecki said.
Although the seniors will be honored in a pregame ceremony Saturday night, it might not be the last time they lace up their skates in the Schottenstein Center.
OSU (13-12-7, 12-7-5-1 CCHA) sits in a tie with Ferris State for fourth in the 11-team CCHA. The top four teams at season’s end will host a quarterfinal matchup (following a first-round bye) in the CCHA Tournament.
Michigan is a perennial powerhouse in college hockey and has nine NCAA titles. The Maize and Blue have not displayed that same dominance this season though. Coach Red Berenson’s squad sits at 10-18-2 in his 29th season in Ann Arbor.
“They haven’t had the year that they thought they were going to have,” said OSU senior defenseman Devon Krogh.
The Wolverines’ struggles have come heavily on the defensive side this season. Their 3.63 goals allowed per game average is the worst in the conference. That weakness could be further exploited this weekend against OSU. The Buckeyes have had a six-goal game in each of their past three home series.
“Our power play is starting to click … if we get three or four goals, you usually give yourself a really good chance to win,” Krogh said.
OSU has ridden the offensive hot streak to an undefeated record of 4-0-2 at home since the calendar turned to 2013. Michigan, carrying a 1-8-2 record away from home this season, provides ample opportunity for the Buckeyes to earn points in the standings. With Ferris State idle, taking a single point from Michigan would push OSU ahead of the Bulldogs with one weekend left in the regular season. However, the Buckeyes will likely not be satisfied with one point, knowing they finish their campaign with a trip to league-leading Miami (Ohio).
If years past are any indicator, large crowds are expected to be on hand for both games this weekend. Last year, nearly 10,000 fans came out for the series opener in Columbus on Jan. 13. Two days later, a crowd of 25,864 watched the Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Like it has for previous Michigan visits, the Schottenstein Center is expected to have the upper level open instead of curtained-off, as it is for most men’s ice hockey games.
Friday’s contest is set for 6:35 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center. It will be televised on Big Ten Network.