As tournament implication talks amplify prior to this weekend’s series at Wisconsin, the Ohio State men’s hockey team has tuned out the noise and remains focused on the first game.
The No. 15 Buckeyes (18-10-6, 9-8-1-1) travel to Madison, Wisconsin, to take on the No. 16 Badgers (19-12-1, 12-6-0-0) for the final series of the regular season. If OSU is able to sweep this tournament-caliber team on the road, it would be a quality final statement to the NCAA tournament selection committee. In order to do that, the Buckeyes must stay focused on the first game on Friday instead of its implications.
“The biggest thing for us really is focusing on Friday night,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “We want to go up there and play a good hockey game, consistent hockey game, and try to win on Friday. That’s all we’re thinking about right now.”
It is very common to hear a coach having this mentality whenever the stakes become high preceding a game, but it could be seen as a team culture when the players carry off of the same mindset.
“We are absolutely focusing on one night (at a time),” said sophomore forward Mason Jobst. “Even just the first period really is what we need to nail it down to. We have to go out and simplify our game and win the first period.”
At the same time, the team said it’s always aware of the situations. Still, it has not changed the Buckeyes approach to every game.
“(This weekend) could set us up for potentially automatically getting into the tournament, but either way we know we have to win these games,” said senior forward Nick Schilkey. “We are going into every game thinking we have to win.”
The Badgers are the only team to sweep OSU this season, so it is imperative that the Buckeyes focus on their strategy and execute for 60 minutes each night.
Both the Badgers and Buckeyes sit on the edge in the tournament selection rankings, so it should be a guarantee that this will be an intense two-game series. OSU has an impressive 11-2-3 record on the road, which should add a boost of confidence heading into the Kohl Center.
This weekend also holds implications over next weekend’s Big Ten tournament seeding. While the highest spot OSU can reach in the Big Ten tournament is the No. 3 seed, there is still plenty at jeopardy for both the Badgers and the Buckeyes.
Puck drop for both nights in Wisconsin are set for 8 p.m. and will be shown live on BTN2Go.