Consistency and composure have been key for the resurgence of the men’s hockey team.
Through their first 20 games, the Buckeyes fell short of lofty pre-season expectations, and the team stumbled into winter break searching for answers. But given a chance to recharge the batteries, the Buckeyes returned to practice with a renewed vigor.
“I want to think we’re not the same team we were in the first half [of the season],” coach John Markell said. “So far we’re proving that. We’re being the team we can be.”
Markell credits some of the Buckeyes’ first half struggles to injuries.
“People think we didn’t sustain big injuries. We did,” Markell explained. “We are finally dressing the team we thought we had and that team is starting to play up to their capabilities.”
Having a healthy squad has brought stability, experience and composure, which has led to instant results.
Since the Buckeyes have returned from their midseason break, they have won three of their four conference games and four of five overall. This after a first half in which the team won only five of 14 conference games.
“I feel like we’re setting a pace that is pretty good,” assistant captain Sergio Somma said. “We’re playing more consistent than we were before the break and we feel pretty good about that.”
The Buckeyes will need to remain consistent as they host No. 10 Ferris State this weekend. It is the second straight week the Buckeyes will face a Top 10 opponent. The team just returned home from visiting then No. 10 Michigan State.
Ferris swept the Buckeyes in the teams’ first series this year in Big Rapids, Mich.
“In their building, they had momentum,” Markell said. “The crowd got into it and our guys got a little intimidated. Our emotions got the best of us.”
The Buckeyes had built a 4-1 lead in the second game of the series but were unable to hold on.
“We took a couple of bad penalties at the wrong time,” Markell said.
Those penalties allowed Ferris State to get back into the game and eventually win 6-5 in overtime.
The Buckeyes’ increased composure has helped them to avoid similar penalties and allowed the team to remain poised in tough situations. One such situation emerged last Saturday, when the Buckeyes were in East Lansing, Mich.
The Buckeyes surrendered a game-tying goal with just 10 minutes remaining in the third period. Somma said despite losing the lead, the team was able to remain calm and continue to play its game.
“We felt like we were playing well and working hard, and if we kept playing the bounces would go our way,” Somma said.
The bounces did go the Buckeyes’ way as they went on to score two goals in the final 1:07 to win 4-2.
Afterward, players said their ability to not lose focus after Michigan State tied them was key in earning the victory.
“We did a lot better job controlling our emotions,” Markell said.
The Buckeyes’ ability to keep their emotions in check is something they obviously lacked the first time they met Ferris State.
“After the first half of the year, the guys are doing a better job of playing for each other,” Markell said. “The finer points of the game are where we seem to be coming together. But that will be tested this weekend, and we hope the good parts of our game will test Ferris State.”
The Buckeyes face off with Ferris State Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.