For the four seniors on the No. 17-ranked Ohio State men’s ice hockey team, Saturday night will be the final time they play at the Schottenstein Center for a regular season game, and the crowd they will be skating in front of what could be one of the largest home crowds of the season.
OSU (15-11-5, 11-10-5-1 CCHA) faces off against Miami (Ohio) (19-3-2, 13-11-2-1 CCHA) at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Columbus after playing the No. 15-ranked RedHawks in Oxford, Ohio, on Friday night.
The attendance on Saturday’s senior night, which will honor forward Danny Dries, defenseman Sean Duddy, goalie Cal Heeter and forward Cory Schneider before the game, should be about 8,000, with more than 7,000 tickets sold and about 1,000 students expected to attend. OSU’s average attendance for home games this season is 3,470.
OSU’s athletic department has been promoting a “Sell Out the Schott” campaign for Saturday’s game for most of the season. While the campaign looks like it will ultimately fall short of its goal, as the Schottenstein Center’s capacity for hockey games is more than 17,000, the Buckeye seniors said they are looking forward to playing in front of what will be either the highest or second highest home attendance of the season (9,828 fans watched OSU lose to Michigan, 4-0, on Jan. 13 in Columbus).
“I’m pretty excited for it,” Heeter said. “It’s definitely going to be a big moment for me.”
“Saturday night will be fun. It will be a great atmosphere. (Miami)’s our rival. It’s going to be fun.”
While all four seniors will be honored pre-game on Saturday, one of them might not be able to play in the game.
Dries, who was suspended in early February for missing a rehab session for his ankle, is back with the team, but is still suffering from that ankle injury and is questionable for this weekend.
“I’m planning like I can (play),” Dries said. “I’m not sure if (the coaching staff is) going to let me go or not. We’ll see.”
While playing in front of the home crowd is something Dries said he would cherish, he understands that what is more important is for him and the team is to be healthy for the CCHA playoffs and a possible NCAA Tournament.
“Obviously, (playing Saturday would) be awesome,” Dries said. “At the same time, I don’t want to re-injure my ankle with the playoffs coming up. If it was up to me, I’d like to play this weekend, but we’ll see.”
The Knucklebucks, OSU ice hockey’s official student section, has something special planned for Saturday night’s contest as well. The first 500 students who get to the game will receive a free Homage Rah Rag branded with the phrase, “It’s Knucklebuck Time.”
Andrew Schwepfinger, a third-year in marketing and leader of The Knucklebucks, said he expects the student turnout to be the second-best of the season.
“I don’t know if it will be quite as big as the Michigan game (on Jan. 13), because we got about 1,900 people there … but it’s always been a pretty big draw, Miami (Ohio). Hopefully we can get close to what we got in the past. We got 1200 (students) last year for Miami (Ohio).” Schwepfinger said.
Following this weekend’s series against Miami (Ohio), the Buckeyes will play in the CCHA tournament. OSU is seeded seventh in the conference, and with one win over Miami (Ohio), will have a home series in the first round of the conference playoffs starting March 2.