Veterans on the Ohio State men’s hockey team are excited to head to East Lansing, Mich., to face off with No. 10 Michigan State.
Defenseman Matt Bartkowski and forward Zac Dalpe are both ready for a return trip to Munn Ice Arena.
“It’s supposed to be a tough atmosphere, but I think we as a team like it. We like getting amped up,” Bartkowski said. “It’s fun to play in a smaller, high-energy atmosphere.”
Dalpe echoed Bartkowski’s assessment and added, “Michigan State is probably one of the top two or three places to play. I don’t know what it is about it but it’s kind of an older rink and a playoff atmosphere that I like playing at.”
Munn Ice Arena is regarded as one of the best facilities for collegiate hockey in the nation and has a reputation for drawing large crowds. While the players are excited for the trip, they understand victories will not be easy to come by as Michigan State has only lost three home games all season.
“We’re going to have to have a road warrior mentality,” coach John Markell said. “It’s going to be a tough grind. Michigan State is playing really well this year. They’re in second [in the CCHA] for a reason.”
The power play and penalty kill have been the main focus for the Buckeyes in 2010 and could be the key to success this weekend.
“Our special teams [in] our first half [of the season] were deplorable,” Bartkowski said.
When the Buckeyes returned from break, they revamped the power play and worked on it constantly in practice.
“Obviously there are more guys in front of the net,” Markell said, while trying not to reveal too much about the team’s new strategy. “We watched a lot of tape of NHL teams and that’s what they’re doing and there is good reason why they’re doing that. Hopefully we can take advantage of that.”
So far the Buckeyes have been taking advantage of the new system, scoring five power play goals in their weekend sweep of Bowling Green on Jan. 8 and Jan 9. The Buckeyes also tallied another power play goal in an exhibition victory over the U.S. Under-18 National Team last weekend.
Players also noted that they’ve seen an increased effort on the penalty kill as of late.
“Special teams are huge,” Dalpe said. “I know we’ve got guys on the penalty kill that are blocking shots and putting their bodies on the line and that is good to see.”
Ohio State will need to execute in both the power play and penalty kill in order to knock off Michigan State this weekend. The games will be played Friday at 7:35 p.m. and Saturday at 5:05 p.m.