For the Ohio State men’s hockey team, competition is encouraged and constructive, not detrimental.
Especially when it comes to the man between the pipes.
After having six goalies on the roster last season, Logan Davis, Matt Tomkins and Christian Frey have returned for their sophomore years with the Buckeyes. Going into this season, coach Steve Rohlik stated that all three would play, with Tomkins and Frey receiving most of the playing time.
A native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, Tomkins said the goalies don’t have much advanced notice when they’re going to start.
“We actually don’t know (who will start) until Thursday, sometimes Friday morning,” he said.
But the battle for the starting spot starts Monday at 8 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than the team’s practice.
“It’s called goalie session,” Davis said. “All three of us do goalie-specific stuff, it helps us to improve the fundamental elements of our game that we can’t focus on in team practice.”
With the Buckeyes suffering from several injuries this season, having consistent goalies to rely on has helped the team stay motivated, Frey said.
“It’s kind of a confidence boost for us (the goalies). We have now become the rocks of the team, holding the them together. We just have to be there for them every single game,” he said.
Tomkins said the competition between goalies keeps each of them sharp and focused throughout the season.
“As a goalie, you obviously want to play as much as you can,” Tomkins said. “But in the same token, it’s a great development tool. The competition makes each of us better, the three of us push each other to be better.”
Even though the Buckeyes have struggled to maintain a consistent season, with only two wins in the Big Ten placing the team second-to-last in the conference, the goalies have prospered.
“As a team, we haven’t been able to get rolling and put together back-to-back wins,” Tomkins said. “But in the same token, the other goalies and I have had to try to consistently improve our game and compete to not only start but to earn the win with the team.”
Frey said even though the wins haven’t been there for the Buckeyes, the three goaltenders still maintain a positive attitude.
“For goalies, the whole game is mental. It’s really easy to fall into a rut,” he said. “We three just have to always be there for each other.”
Tomkins said his relationship with Frey and Davis has become stronger with the competition.
“A lot of people probably think that with us competing for the same job that we wouldn’t get along, but it’s actually the opposite.” Tomkins said. “We just embrace the competition, in the end we are all striving for the same goals, which ultimately just helps our overall relationship.”
Tomkins added that even with the tough games — like the Buckeyes’ 10-6 loss to Michigan on Jan. 16 — Frey, Davis and he have come together to discuss.
“After the Michigan game, we all got together and just talked hockey in general and goaltending,” Tomkins said. “We all give advice, we point out the mistakes and the positives. That just brings us closer together.”
OSU is scheduled to return to its Big Ten season this weekend, traveling to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday and Saturday.