Ohio State’s men’s hockey team has gotten off to a hot start this season, sitting at 8-4-4 as the No. 15 team in USCHO’s rankings.
Despite the hot start, a glaring fault has plagued the team.
It can’t seem to win at home.
Ohio State boasts a strong 7-1-1 record away from home, second-best in the nation behind only No. 4 Notre Dame, which is a perfect 6-0-0. At the Schottenstein Center, however, the Buckeyes are 1-3-3, which is the sixth-worst home win percentage in the NCAA.
Three of the five teams with a worse home win percentage than them are in the bottom two of their conferences, and none of them are ranked, with only Army (1-5-1 at home) receiving a vote to be included in the rankings.
The Buckeyes’ record is good, maybe even great for a team many counted out of a deep Big Ten conference after losing star captain Nick Schilkey and all three goalies to graduation. But, much like the season before, when splitting the record between home and away games, the numbers are startling.
There are reasonable explanations for the Buckeyes’ poor record at home. For example, two of the three losses come from Notre Dame, which is undefeated on the road and in Big Ten play this season.
However, the other draws and losses are much harder to understand.
For a team hoping to remain in the hunt for one of 16 NCAA tournament bids, a pair of 1-1 draws to RPI, which 3-10-3 overall this year, as well as a 5-5 draw and 4-0 loss to No. 18 Penn State — only ranked because of the statement it made in that series — does not look great. The 5-5 draw, and eventual shootout loss, only looks worse given the Nittany Lions stole two points with a goal with less than a second remaining in regulation to force overtime.
This could be chalked up to a coincidence, and maybe there just haven’t been enough games this season to determine this as a trend. Yet this trend is alarming for the Buckeyes since it has seemed to linger from last season, when they also struggled at home.
During the 2016-17 season, Ohio State had an NCAA-best 13-2-3 road record, but was a subpar 7-7-2 in its own arena.
The home struggles aren’t to suggest there’s no hope for this Ohio State team. The Buckeyes have proved their worth on the road, earning a statement win in their season opener against No. 12 Wisconsin, and just last weekend Ohio State played its best series of the season, taking two wins rather easily against then-No. 17 Michigan.
Ohio State also has completely flipped its identity from a high-powered scoring team lacking defense to a more well-rounded, defensive team that gives up the eighth-least goals per game and is tied for first on the penalty kill.
Sophomore forward Tanner Laczynski has shined this year, leading the team with 20 points, and redshirt junior goalie Sean Romeo has filled some big skates in the net. Still, nearing the halfway point in the season with more home games left than road ones, the Buckeyes will need to figure out a way to succeed in the Schott, or their tournament chances will dissolve.