Senior forward Nick Schilkey of the Ohio State men’s hockey team vividly remembers the championship game in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament. OSU held a two-goal lead with under two minutes from a Big Ten title against No. 6 Wisconsin. Just 10 minutes later, Shilkey and the rest of the Buckeyes were sitting on the ice, dejected after losing 5-4 in overtime.
The Buckeyes gave up two goals in the final two minutes of regulation and then conceded the deciding goal to send the Buckeyes home. Shilkey has a photo reminding him of that moment.
After two consecutive losing seasons, Schilkey and the other two senior captains have their eyes set on claiming that game they squandered as freshmen.
“We have really good chemistry (this year) which we’ve battled with a little bit the past few years,” senior defenseman and captain Josh Healey said. “So I think just the chemistry of the guys and having everyone on the same page is going to help us get there.”
Once the players arrived this fall, Healey, Shilkey and senior defenseman Drew Brevig — one of the three captains — took it upon themselves to gather the team and develop a camaraderie that had been missing.
Team members take classes, go to dinners and attend football games together. Going through the grueling hours of practice combined with a full day of classes, they rely on each other more now than ever. In return, Shilkey said he has noticed a greater sense of team confidence.
OSU is beginning to transition to a full practice schedule with coaches on the ice full-time now. In the offseason, there are limitations concerning the amount of hours a coach can be on the ice instructing the team. Brevig said that the experience of leading practices without coaches has helped them develop trust in each other to critique and encourage better performances.
The Buckeyes return with all but two players this year, including their top four point leaders from the 2015-16 season. OSU also added five freshman to the fold who Schilkey said are more than capable of having a significant impact on the ice this season.
“They seem to be confident and I told the older guys that we have to make them as comfortable as possible,” he said. “They’re here because they want to be here and we want them to be here. We have to make sure they fit in and they just play their game.”
Coach Steve Rohlik has said the team needs an even more-intense work ethic when it faces Denver in the Oct. 7 season opener.
“I think the place we are at this year is better than we were last year,” Brevig said. “Our whole group is very close. We have one common goal so I think we are ready to go.”