Blocking shots is considered to be a game tactic by some, and desperation hockey by others.
That seems to have been the dilemma throughout the NHL recently, and now the topic has found its way into the world of college hockey.
According to the the website SportingCharts.com, a blocked shot is “an attempted shot on net that is prevented from reaching the net due to being blocked or deflected by an opponent.”
For the Ohio State men’s hockey team, blocked shots have always important. Last season, the Buckeyes ranked seventh in the NCAA with 15.54 blocks per game.
Junior defenseman Craig Dalrymple said for a shooter to get the puck to the net, they might have to go through three or four players before the puck even reaches the goalie.
“As a defenseman, if a puck is up at the blue line and the other team shoots it, it’s up to the forward line to block it. If it goes through them, it’s on the defenseman to try and block it,” Dalrymple said. “You always want to have two to three layers before the puck gets to the goal.”
With the Big Ten leading the way in blocked shots last season with three teams in the top 10, putting bodies in front of the puck has become a game tactic and a reason for success.
“If you’re in the lanes, you have to sacrifice your body for the team,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said.
Dalrymple added sometimes “you have to take it for the team.”
“When you get back to the bench, everyone is just giving you high-fives and hugging you, so it’s well worth it,” he said.
Twenty-eight games into the season, the Buckeyes are averaging 16.36 blocked shots per game, with Dalrymple leading the way with 44 total blocks.
During the Michigan series, OSU totaled 43 blocked shots, with 27 of those coming from Friday night’s 5-3 win against the Wolverines.
Senior defenseman Justin DaSilva said blocked shots are a part of the “playoff hockey” mentality that Rohlik has been emphasizing over the past couple of weeks.
“Coach has been screaming at us to block more and more shots and the more we do it in practice, the more it will happen in games,” DaSilva said. “Once the whole team starts doing it, it’s hard for the other team to have any offense going.”
Last season, DaSilva led the NCAA with 2.74 blocked shots per game.
But for the 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound defenseman from Cambridge, Ontario, blocked shots haven’t always been in the gameplan.
“Before coming to college, I was never a guy that would block shots,” DaSilva said. “But then coming here and learning what it takes to win games and do what it takes to help your team and help the goalies out, blocked shots are huge. You’re potentially saving a goal.”
For OSU, blocked shots seem to be more about determination than desperation. Dalrymple said blocking a shot is just as important as scoring a goal for the Buckeyes.
“If your teammates see you block one or two shots in your shift, they get excited. I mean, you never know if that shot would have gone in, maybe (would’ve) been a goal,” Dalrymple said. “Everyone is happy and cheering you on.
“When you see someone blocking shots, it makes you think, ‘I want to work hard like that guy, I want to get congratulated like he does,’” he said.
The Buckeyes won’t be backing down on their shot-blocking tactics as they prepare to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.
“They like to shoot the puck from anywhere,” Dalrymple said. “So of course blocking shots is going to be just as big of a focus.”
After splitting a series against Penn State (16-10-4, 8-5-1-0) earlier this season, the Buckeyes (9-17-2, 4-10-0) are looking to keep the Nittany Lions’ offense on the outside.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Penn State at the Schottenstein Center on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.