Ohio State men’s hockey coach Steve Rohlik’s message to his team in the offseason was clear: A fast start to the season will be a key factor in the team having an opportunity at postseason play.
The Buckeyes did just that in their exhibition game on Sunday at Value City Arena inside the Schottenstein Center by jumping all over the Wilfrid-Laurier Golden Hawks from the get-go.
With the help of two first-period goals from sophomore forward Dakota Joshua, OSU defeated Wilfrid-Laurier 9 – 2. Yes, it was just an exhibition, but Rohlik said he was pleased with the team’s offensive attack in the early period.
“We talked a lot about getting out there, and the guys were anxious to play against somebody else besides themselves,” Rohlik said. “Just trying to get out there and throw the first punch, get out there, get after it, that was kind of our focus today.”
Joshua would come back in the second period to tack on another goal to his already impressive performance, topping off a hat trick. Joshua added an assist on a second-period goal by sophomore defender Tommy Parran, for a total of four points on the day.
“I was fortunate enough to get two in the first,” Joshua said. “It was a little weird being the first game back from a long break so it was nice to see the first one go in.”
Sophomore forward John Wiitala had four points as well, and newcomer forward Tanner Laczynski had three points on Sunday. The Buckeyes registered 50 shots on net.
Being selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, Laczynski is being asked by the coaching staff to fill a big role for an OSU team that has postseason aspirations. Joshua said that the youngster didn’t have any deer-in-the-headlights looks out there in his first game action.
“He knows, in his head, that he has a big role to fill, so it was good to see him go out in the first game — even though it was an exhibition — and do what he needed to do,” Joshua said. “Hopefully that will give him a little jump start.”
Concerning the defense, Rohlik stuck with his pairs of defensemen that he ended last year with. Senior captain defensemen Josh Healey and Drew Brevig possess the most experience on the back line, but each of them was paired with sophomores Tommy Parran and Sasha Larocque, respectively.
Twelve out of 26 OSU players are sophomores or freshmen, and one particular pairing that showed OSU’s youth was the duo of freshmen defensemen Matt Miller and Gordi Myer. Healey said he believes the coaching staff has figured out its six defensemen for the regular season, but Sunday’s game provided an opportunity for the freshmen to compete for a spot in the lineup.
Earlier in the week, Rohlik said the penalty kill and powerplay units will be crucial this year for the Buckeyes. On Sunday, OSU was 2-for-5 on the powerplay, but did allow a goal on the kill.
The Scarlet and Gray ranked near the bottom of the NCAA in penalty kills last year, which Healey said he believes caused several results in ‘15-’16.
“It’s definitely been something we have worked on and have been working on,” he said. “We had a lot of one-goal games last year that came down to penalty kill and powerplay either not capitalizing or giving up a goal. This year, we are definitely focusing more on that.”
The Buckeyes will switch its focus to the regular season and No. 3 Denver, the team’s first opponent on Friday.