Anybody can beat anybody in college hockey.
That message, which is echoed annually by coaches around the country, was proven true by Ohio State (0-4) to the college hockey sphere in the first game of last season when it took down the then-No. 3 ranked Providence Friars 5-4 in overtime at the Schottenstein Center.
In this season’s matchup, a few things are the same, and a few things are different.
The Friars (2-0-1) are once again ranked third in the latest United States College Hockey Online poll and return a lot of key players.
But this year’s series takes place in Rhode Island at Schneider Arena, the Buckeyes are a very different looking team and a lot of those aforementioned key Friar players now have shiny rings on their fingers after winning the program’s first national title in April.
“They’re a top-five team in the country, but that doesn’t really mean much to us,” senior captain Craig Dalrymple said. “It’s going to be a tough two games up there. We know they’re going to be a pretty gritty team. I’m sure they’re going to be quick. We just have to make sure we’re ready for that.”
OSU is off to its worst start since 1974-75 when the Scarlet and Gray finished with a record of 7-22-1.
Finding the back of the net
OSU’s offense, which has contributed just three goals in the last three games, will need to step up against a talented Friar defense.
“We’ve had a lot of chances,” junior captain Nick Schilkey said. “Personally, I’ve had a lot of chances, and it gets frustrating but we have to stick with it. The chances that we have been getting, they’re going to go in. We can’t get too frustrated with that. Going forward, we have to be confident.”
Special teams, as always, will be a factor. Three of the five Buckeye goals in OSU’s upset win last season came with the man-advantage. But so far this season, OSU has only scored on one of its 16 power-play attempts.
“We’ve got to be able to chip one in on the power play,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “We haven’t been able to do that lately. Instead of not quite two goals a game, you’re getting maybe three goals a game. If we could’ve done that in the last few games, all of sudden you’re right there.”
Rohlik, now in his third season at the helm of the Buckeyes, has tried a variety of combinations personnel-wise with the extra man. But his search for the proper one persists.
“We’re just trying to find the right combinations.” Rohlik said. “We’ll continue to tweak until we find the right recipe.”
- OSU leads the all-time series against Providence 4-1
- Friday marks the first time the Buckeyes and Friars face off in Rhode Island.
- The last time OSU has played in Providence was in the 2003 NCAA tournament, where the Buckeyes fell to Boston College 1-0 in the regional semifinal. Their first trip to Rhode Island’s capital city was in November 1974, when they were swept by Brown in two games.
The building process continues
For the young team, this weekend represents another opportunity to face off with a top-20 opponent, as well as another opportunity to build and get better.
“I think we’re making some strides,” Rohlik said. “Nobody wants to be 0-4 at this point. We knew it was going to be a tough schedule. In our minds, we can go out and beat anyone. We’ve just got to stay with that confidence.”
Puck drop between the Buckeyes and the Friars is set for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Correction 10/21: An earlier version of the story said OSU’s first-ever trip to Providence came in 2003, when in fact it played two games against Brown in 1974.