When Mercyhurst (5-3) rings the Schottenstein Center’s doorbell prior to Friday’s matchup with Ohio State (0-6), there won’t be any treats exchanged — just a bevy of tricks thrown at each other.
Given the Lakers’ roster — comprised of 11 freshmen, 11 sophomores, four juniors and three seniors — one might think that they would be going through the same growing pains that OSU is going through.
Strength of schedules and comparisons aside, Mercyhurst proved that it is not to be taken lightly with its trip to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan two weekends ago.
The Lakers went toe-to-toe with the now No. 10-ranked Wolverines for three periods in both games. Michigan still won both contests by 6-4 and 3-2 final scores, but the positive showing by Mercyhurst can be seen as a feather in its cap.
For OSU coach Steve Rohlik, none of that matters. The coach said his team always treats its opponent like it’s the best team in the nation.
“They’re very well coached,” Rohlik said. “We played them last year. We were fortunate to get one out of the two. There are no breaks. This is about us trying to get better, we’ve got to continue to make steps.”
Puck drop between the Buckeyes and the Lakers is set for 7 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Keeping it tight
Despite the rough start to the season, OSU has kept it close in every game so far. Five of its six losses have come within two goals.
“We need to not start playing our game when we’re down two or three goals,” senior captain Anthony Greco said. “We need to start playing right from the get-go and get all over teams and have those first two or three punches right away.”
The offense will be a point of emphasis this weekend, as the Buckeyes are averaging just under two goals per game thus far, which places them in 45th place nationally.
OSU has shown improvement in the goal department, however. In its last game on Oct. 24, the Scarlet and Gray put up a season-high four goals against Providence.
“You need to score goals to win games,” Greco said. “That’s something that we’ve got to build on, producing offense but not overlooking the defensive side of things.”
Protect this house
The next four games for OSU will be key to getting things back on track. Following their two-game set with Mercyhurst this weekend, the Buckeyes will have a bye week before taking on Canisius at home on Nov. 13 and 14.
After that, the Scarlet and Gray will not have another contest in Columbus until Jan. 15 against Michigan.
“Any time we get to stay here and play here, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” Rohlik said.
That slate of road games features matchups against No. 2 Nebraska-Omaha, the Big Ten Conference opener against No. 20 Minnesota and a trip to Florida to face No. 4 Boston College and either Cornell or No. 3 Providence again in the Florida College Classic.
- OSU is 3-6-2 all-time on Halloween.
- OSU’s first Halloween contest came in 1980, a 6-3 loss at home against Wilfrid Laurier University.
- The Buckeyes played Canisius to a 3-3 draw last year on Halloween.
- A 4-2 win over Alaska Fairbanks at home in 2003 is the most recent Halloween victory for OSU.