Craig Dalrymple stood outside the visiting locker room at the Bowling Green State University Ice Arena three weeks ago with a disarming smile that belied his 6-foot-5-inch, 210-pound stature and reputation as a rugged junior defenseman on the Ohio State men’s hockey team.
Moments earlier, Dalrymple was celebrating his team’s 3-2 win against the Falcons, but his jubilation was multifaceted; he’d just played his first game in 301 days.
As the Buckeyes (5-8-1, 1-1-0) prepare for Friday’s road game against Michigan, Dalrymple, who’s been recovering from an upper-body injury he sustained on Jan. 17, said he’s fully healed.
“Now that I’ve played six games here, I feel a lot better and I almost feel like everything’s coming into place,” Dalrymple said. “I think I’m at 100 percent.”
Dalrymple was sidelined following OSU’s outdoor game against University of Minnesota last season and said his recovery timeline was “hard to explain.”
There were multiple times during the recovery process when Dalrymple returned to practice only to realize he wasn’t in playing condition, he said.
“He was at the rink every day at the same time as everyone else,” Buckeye junior defenseman Sam Jardine said. “(When) he wasn’t allowed to practice and he was done at lift, he’d watch us practice.”
At the beginning of the season, Dalrymple could often be seen standing on the OSU bench wearing a pullover and ball cap, tasked with overcoming the mental and physical frustration his injury incited.
“To take (hockey) away from someone when they’re that passionate for it is very tough,” Dalrymple said. “You feel helpless.”
The feeling was mutual for the rest of the Buckeyes who worked to keep Dalrymple, who’d missed four collegiate games prior to his injury, in a positive mindset, OSU coach Steve Rohlik said.
Once Dalrymple returned to the lineup on Nov. 14, he immediately strengthened OSU’s blue line, Jardine said.
“He picked up right where he left off,” Jardine said. “All credit to him for staying in shape and staying focused through that time.”
In a short exchange with Dalrymple, it’s not tough to imagine his roots influenced his work rate.
A native of Kippen, Ontario, Dalrymple, 23, began playing hockey as a 5-year-old and spent summers working on a farm for Huron Tractor, he said.
“I remember for three summers I was kind of like the utility boy,” Dalrymple said. “I was delivery, I was doing this, doing that, but I mean, I was working Monday to Friday and I loved every second of it.”
It’s a testament to his work rate that Dalrymple has re-established himself as a top defenseman in the Buckeyes’ lineup after six games.
Dalrymple has two points, 12 shots and 18 blocked shots this season, logging time on the power play and penalty kill units.
“He’s got a rocket from the point and he’s a big physical guy defensively,” Jardine said. “I don’t think a lot of people realized how much we missed him.”
OSU will have another chance to prove its improved defensive stability this weekend against the Wolverines (7-6-0, 1-1-0).
The Buckeyes are 3-1-1 on the road this season and have a chance to earn their second conference win of the season before a nearly month-long winter break.
“We just have to empty the tanks,” Rohlik said. “We have nothing to save ourselves for.”
-David Gust is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Rohlik said
-The Buckeyes went 0-3-1 against the Wolverines last season. OSU’s last win against Michigan was on Nov. 19, 2011