The Ohio State men’s hockey team started the 2016-17 season with a bang, taking down then-No. 3 Denver on the road. Since then, the Buckeyes have continued to improve and are soaring up USCHO college hockey rankings heading into its two-game set against Robert Morris, starting Friday.
No. 11 OSU took care of business last weekend with a sweep over Niagara University, scoring a combined 16 goals in two games. The two wins brought OSU’s record to 5-0-2, the first time the program has been undefeated through its first seven games since 1983-84.
Junior forward Matthew Weis tallied six points in those two games against Niagara — two goals and four assists. Senior forward Nick Schilkey earned his first career hat trick as a Buckeye, and sophomore defenseman Tommy Parran had three points on the night, including two goals. Weis and Parran were named the conference’s first and third stars of the week, respectively.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Weis said. “My linemates played very well alongside me, so it’s a team award.”
OSU has one of the most potent offenses in the NCAA. The Buckeyes lead the country with 99 points and rank third nationally with 4.86 goals per game. OSU has scored five goals in each of its last four games, one big reason being freshman forward Tanner Laczynski.
The 6-foot-1, 191-pound winger has assimilated into college hockey with ease. He leads the team in points (11) and assists (8), making his line one of the most productive on the team. Laczynski has also garnered attention on the powerplay unit, scoring twice in the first seven games. He said that while the points are appealing on the stat sheet, it’s more about the team result for him.
“Teams are not going to take us lighter anymore. I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’re going to start to get people’s best games, and that’s just going to make us better as a team and better for the future.”
The Robert Morris Colonials are coming off of a split against Army, where Colonials freshman goaltender Francis Marotte made 26 saves on 27 shots, placing him in the top 10 in the country in save percentage at .946. Marotte is 2-1-1 in the net for coach Derek Schooley, but the Colonials are 0-2-0 without Marotte.
In its own net, OSU senior goalkeeper Matt Tomkins has been unbeatable this season. He has kept OSU in several games, including an overtime tie at Miami. For the year, Tomkins has a .928 save percentage and is 4-0-2 between the pipes. For OSU to get past Marotte and provide support for Tomkins, special teams will play a large factor in the two-game set.
Robert Morris ranks second to last in the NCAA in penalty kill, which serves as the perfect opportunity for OSU to assert its dominance on the powerplay, which is 8-for-26 through seven games.
“We work on powerplay every week and (OSU coach Steve Rohlik) has been drilling into us that we’re not just given a spot,” Laczynski said. “You really have to work for it and it shouldn’t take him jumping on us in practice to realize that.”
Robert Morris junior forward Brady Ferguson and sophomore defenseman Eric Israel lead the offensive attack of the Colonials. Ferguson leads the team with 10 points and Israel has already chalked up seven assists. The penalty kill of OSU is struggling at a rate of 78.9 percent. Coach Rohlik said that the team still has plenty of room to improve from its fast start, mostly on the defensive side of the puck.
“When you start scoring a few goals, it starts affecting your overall game and you start cheating the game,” he said. “And I thought we did that this past weekend. You still got to play the right way.”
OSU begins its two-game home-and-home on home ice at the Schottenstein Center. The puck will drop around 7 p.m. for the Buckeyes’ second home game of the year.
The Ohio State Marching Band will perform Script Ohio on Ice during an intermission on Friday.