Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
Ohio State men’s ice hockey coach Mark Osiecki said the biggest obstacle this weekend for his team might not be its opponent.
After all, Central Collegiate Hockey Association foe Alaska is almost 4,000 miles away from the Schottenstein Center.
“The challenge is just getting there and trying to get back to normal as quickly as you can,” Osiecki said of the trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, for its series against the Nanooks.
Only one point separates OSU and Alaska for fifth place in the CCHA standings and a first-round bye in the conference’s tournament which starts on March 8.
Osiecki called Tuesday’s practice “an outstanding day” and said he believes his team will be ready for Alaska’s high-speed attack.
“They’re fast and they get after you,” Osiecki said. “Their system is their transition, is their speed, is their compete level. They’ll be tough to play against up there.”
OSU (11-11-6, 10-6-4-1 CCHA) left for Fairbanks Wednesday in order to get acclimated with the four-hour time difference. The team is coming off a win against Notre Dame Friday and a shootout loss against the Irish Saturday.
Sophomore forward Max McCormick said Tuesday he was looking forward to the trip across the country.
“It’ll be a long trip, but I have never been to Alaska, so that will be kind of cool and it will be interesting to see (what) it’s like up there,” McCormick said.
Junior forward Chris Crane will be making his second trip to Fairbanks and remembers travel issues two years ago, the last time OSU played there.
“We got there and none of our luggage is there, our hockey bags aren’t there,” Crane said. “We can’t even brush our teeth.”
Alaska (12-10-4, 10-9-3-1 CCHA) is coming off two losses at Miami last weekend which snapped a six-game win streak. The Nanooks house one of the few Olympic-sized ice sheets in the country. Crane said he believes the larger rink will be beneficial for the Buckeyes.
“I think the Olympic-sized sheet actually helps us with our speed,” Crane said. “We are a high-end speed team.”
McCormick said previous long trips to places such as Lake Superior State have helped he and his teammates learn how to get their bodies ready to play. Crane said he agreed with McCormick that staying focused is important.
“I think it’s important to emphasize just staying concentrated, staying hydrated throughout the day,” Crane said. “Getting the rest and maybe carrying a pillow on the plane so you’re comfortable and not sore when you get off it.”
The series is the only road trip for OSU in February. The teams are set to square off at 11:05 p.m. EST Friday and Saturday night at the Carlson Center.