Following a less-than-stellar first half of the season, the men’s hockey team is looking to improve in the second half, starting with two games against Bowling Green.
The Buckeyes were just 7-12-1 through their first 20 games this season and are ninth in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
But with 14 games remaining, all of them in-conference, the Buckeyes believe they can gain ground in the CCHA.
“We’re feeling good about where we could be if we put things together and our guys are excited about that,” coach John Markell said.
The Buckeyes haven’t played a game since Dec. 12, but resumed practice Dec. 28 and have used the time to improve on their power play and penalty kill.
“We videoed our [penalty kill] everyday and our power play every day. We know how important that is,” Markell said. “The power play obviously needs to click for us.”
The Buckeyes found themselves in the penalty box often in their first 20 games, which Markell acknowledged as another area of concern. “We can’t be caught in the penalty box a lot; that puts stress on too many things. Every little thing is magnified.”
Improvement on the special teams — the power play and penalty kill — could reciprocate on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Forwards Sergio Somma and Zac Dalpe noticed an increased intensity in practice since the team has come back.
“In practice there were a couple scuffles on the ice and that’s good to see. Guys are working hard,” Somma said. “It says the intensity is there in practice. A high level of energy and intensity. Obviously that spawns winning and that spawns good teams.”
Somma and the rest of the Buckeyes will put that intensity to the test against in-state rival Bowling Green this weekend. The teams have a bit of familiarity with each other from playing in the CCHA and having met in the postseason last year. Bowling Green comes into the weekend struggling (3-15-2), but no one at Ohio State is taking them lightly, especially coach Markell.
“We know Bowling Green is a very hard-working team,” Markell said. “It’s going to take everything we can muster up to beat them. You have to be at a competitive level each and every night or it will sting you. You don’t get by with taking any short cuts in college hockey.”
There is some concern whether OSU will be able to be at that competitive level after their recent hiatus from play.
“Realistically we haven’t played a game in a month. There is going to be a little rust there,” Markell said. “Bowling Green is going to have two games under their belt.”
The Falcons played two games last weekend and look to be sharp coming into Columbus.
However, Somma is confident the team will be ready.
“We’ve been conditioning a lot, but at the same time there is nothing like actually playing a game, so I’m sure it will take a good half period to get your legs back and get to game speed,” he said. “But we’re not out of shape by any means.”
OSU will need to get back to game speed quickly if they’re going to beat Bowling Green this weekend. The games are Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.