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Men’s hockey: No. 10 Ohio State opens Big Ten play at No. 11 Minnesota

OSU then-freshman defenseman Tommy Parran (6) tries to clear the puck in front of the Buckeyes’ goal in a game against Minnesota on Feb. 12, 2016, at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File Photo

OSU then-freshman defenseman Tommy Parran (6) tries to clear the puck in front of the Buckeyes’ goal in a game against Minnesota on Feb. 12, 2016, at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File Photo

The Ohio State men’s hockey team returned to the Schottenstein Center for practice on Monday after the team’s first bye week since the beginning of October. Coach Steve Rohlik was leading his team through its morning skate when he received the news about an active shooter situation on campus.

Rohlik immediately stopped practice to inform his players of the then-ongoing situation that ended with the death of attacker Abdul Razak Ali Artan. 11 students and faculty were sent to hospitals after Artan drove into pedestrians with his car and then injured others with a butcher’s knife.

“It just hits you head on. An unfortunate incident, and obviously our thoughts and prayers go out to all the injured ones here on campus,” Rohlik said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot more that goes on than just this game of hockey.”

Senior defenseman, and one of the team’s three captains, Josh Healey was one of several players who were affected by the news. He said that he received a lot of support from family and friends, including his dad who was watching the news about OSU all the way in western Canada.

“You never know when something like this could happen,” Healey said. “For us, we’ve definitely not forgotten about it, but we’re trying to focus on this week’s game and being prepared for Minnesota.”

The No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers come into Big Ten play just one ranking behind the Buckeyes. The Maroon and Gold were picked to win the conference in the preseason, which gives OSU a bit of a chip on its shoulder, Healey said.

The Gophers are 6-4-2 still riding high from its victory over No. 3 Boston College on the Eagles’ home ice. Minnesota coach Don Lucia earned his 700th career coaching victory with the win. Senior forward Vinni Lettieri led Minnesota with two assists and the game-winning goal.

The last time the Buckeyes faced off against the Gophers was in the 2016 Big Ten Men’s Hockey Tournament when OSU lost 4-2 in the conference semifinals. Minnesota then-freshman forward Tyler Sheehy mad the largest impact in that game against the Buckeyes, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. In total, four of the last five meetings between OSU and Minnesota have been a difference of one goal, including three games decided in overtime. OSU lost all of those games.

From playing against Lucia’s team several times in the past, Rohlik and Healey know how skilled the Gophers are, and the speed at which they like to play at. Mariucci Arena, the Gopher’s home ice is Olympic-sized which is 15 feet wider than the NHL-sized ice OSU plays on.

“They got a massive rink. That ice sheet, you really notice,” senior forward David Gust said. “You got to play a little differently, a little smarter. It’s a different structured game. It’s more up-and-down like paced game instead of a control game.”

This season, OSU played with a more run-and-gun offensive style where the front line gets the puck in the zone early, attacking the net with as many chances as possible. Minnesota and OSU rank eighth and second in the country, respectively, in goals per game.

Two weeks ago was OSU’s last time on the ice in a game situation where the penalty kill noticeably improved. The Buckeyes only allowed two power play goals on 10 opportunities. Statistically, Rohlik’s group has been one of the worst teams on the penalty kill this year.

Minnesota is sixth nationally in power play, scoring on 23.5 percent of opportunities.

“We definitely haven’t been great on the penalty kill at times but on the penalty kill, we’ve definitely cleaned it up and that’s something we’ve emphasized in practice,” Healey said. “The guys came together and realized that we got to get better.”

The puck drops in Minneapolis at 9 p.m. ET on Friday and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network. Saturday’s faceoff is set for 8 p.m.

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