One final series at the Schottenstein Center remains on the 2016-17 schedule for the No. 13 Ohio State men’s hockey team (17-9-6, 8-7-1-1), as the Scarlet and Gray welcome the Michigan State Spartans (6-21-3, 2-12-2-0) to Columbus for two crucial conference clashes.
This weekend will mark the second series of the season between the Buckeyes and Spartans. The first series on Feb. 17 and 18 featured two one-goal wins for OSU at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Michigan — 3-2 Friday and 4-3 Saturday — to seal the sweep.
Despite those vital victories, Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said his team must continue to respect a visiting Michigan State squad — and at this point in the season, this weekend represents two must-win games for his team.
“We were fortunate to get out of (East) Lansing there with two wins, and we’ve got to be better this weekend,” Rohlik said. “We want to come out and get a quick start, and hopefully put together a 60-minute game.”
Although the Buckeyes left the state of Michigan with six Big Ten points earlier this month, senior forward and captain Nick Schilkey said OSU looked at its previous meetings with the Spartans in order to make adjustments, and will enter the series with a “do or die” mentality.
However, Schilkey said the result of this weekend will depend ultimately on the Buckeyes’ effort on the ice.
“We watched video this week, and learned what worked well for us, areas they exposed us,” Schilkey said. “We play each team twice, and it’s just like any other second weekend of playing a team in this conference. We watched tape, learn from some things, but at the end of the day, it comes down to us and our work ethic.”
Currently, OSU sits in the 15th spot of the PairWise rankings for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA tournament — and have rested on the bubble down the stretch of the season. In light of this, Rohlik said his team is aware of its present situation regarding postseason play, and that the NCAA tournament truly begins for his unit with the first faceoff Friday night.
“I think everybody in (the locker room) knows exactly where we’re at, and I think that just jumpstarts our playoffs,” Rohlik said. “We’ve got to start our playoffs earlier than most teams right now, and Friday to me is a playoff hockey game.”
Puck drop for the final home series of the season is set for 7 p.m. Friday night, while Saturday’s clash is slated to begin at 8 p.m.