The OSU men’s hockey team huddles prior to a Nov. 8 game against Nebraska-Omaha at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 4-3. Credit: Kelly Roderick / For The Lantern

The OSU men’s hockey team huddles prior to a Nov. 8 game against Nebraska-Omaha at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 4-3.
Credit: Kelly Roderick / For The Lantern

The Ohio State men’s hockey locker room is a light-hearted, excited and confident place, according to those inside it, but the Buckeyes are 3-6-1 ahead of their first conference game of the season on Thursday. Contradictions are tricky.

“Everyone in our room feels like we have something more,” OSU junior defenseman Sam Jardine said. “It helps that you can have a reset button … but at the same time I don’t think it was absolutely necessary.”

The Buckeyes’ home series against Michigan State (3-6-0) will mark their first Big Ten matchup of the season and another opportunity to redirect their losing momentum.

OSU has dropped three of its last four games, including its most recent contest: a one-goal loss to Bowling Green on Saturday.   

“As disappointed as we were losing that game Saturday, I think the guys were ready to say, ‘Listen, we have Michigan State coming to town,’” Buckeye coach Steve Rohlik said.

The conference matchup still doesn’t bring a clean slate, as the team has already played 10 games and is not playing how it wants to be, Rohlik said.

In recent games, it’s been “shift-after” goals that have stung OSU. The Buckeyes have allowed four goals within two minutes of scoring in their past two series.

The power play has also been a focal point as OSU has gone one-for-25 on the man advantage in its past six games.

“We’ve worked on it again this week,” Rohlik said. “(We) have to follow through the blueprint and stick to the game plan.”

The Buckeyes’ five-on-five game plan will include keeping track of the Spartans’ senior forward Matt Berry, Rohlik said. Berry, along with junior forward Michael Ferrantino, has five goals and three assists through nine games.

Michigan State has played a tough non-conference schedule in advance of its first Big Ten game of the season. The Spartans have faced four ranked opponents.

The Buckeyes went 2-0-3 against the Spartans last season, earning a pair of shootout victories.

“This is the fun part,” senior forward Chad Niddery said. “When you see Big Ten teams coming in here and we’re finally starting our conference, that puts a little lead in your pencil.”

Minnesota, Penn State and Michigan are atop the Big Ten standings through non-conference play. Wisconsin has gone 0-6-0 following its 2014 Big Ten Tournament championship.

The Buckeyes are aware of the Big Ten non-conference standings, but don’t pay too much attention to the results, Niddery said.

Niddery has focused the majority of his attention on getting pucks toward the net, something he said his entire team needs to do with greater frequency.

“The biggest thing we have to do is start shooting,” Niddery said. “We’re trying to be a little bit too pretty.”

Jardine offered a different reason for the team’s recent futility.

“It’s a mental thing,” Jardine said. “I think we just need a sharper focus and more consistent play.”

OSU is set to face off against Michigan State at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Schottenstein Center.

Loose Pucks

Rohlik said sophomore goalie Matt Tomkins will play on Thursday, then OSU will “figure it out from there.”

Freshman forward Matt Weis practiced in a non-contact jersey on Wednesday. He is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Rohlik said.