The No. 15 Ohio State men’s hockey team (8-4-4, 3-4-1-0 in Big Ten) will continue its streak of conference play with a weekend series against No. 7 Minnesota (10-7-1, 4-5-1-1 in Big Ten) on Friday and Saturday.
The Golden Gophers enter the series losing three of the past four games, but the losses were against high-ranked opponents in No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 4 Notre Dame. Ohio State is coming off a disappointing series against No. 18 Penn State, in which they lost in shootout after a 5-5 tie, then lost 4-0 the following game.
“No one likes to lose, and certainly you don’t like to lose the way we lost on Saturday,” head coach Steve Rohlik said. “We’re playing one of the better hockey teams in the country, and we know we have to be ready, so obviously it’s important for us to get back and have a good effort.”
Minnesota gets its scoring from a variety of players. Three Golden Gophers rank top-50 in the NCAA in points. Sophomore forward Rem Pitlick leads the team with eight goals and 19 points, followed closely by junior forward Tommy Novak and freshman forward Casey Mittelstadt with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
With the Buckeyes taking a few weeks off after this series, junior defenseman Sasha Larocque understands the importance of playing well against Minnesota.
“It’s huge, they’re a top team, both in the Big Ten and nationally, so it’s a good marker for us going into break here,” Larocque said.
Minnesota is ranked 30th in goals for and tied for 12th in goals against in the nation. Its impressive lack of allowed goals can be largely credited to junior goalie Eric Schierhorn, who has played in goal every game for the Golden Gophers this season.
Last season Ohio State and Minnesota split both series. The four games totaled a combined 39 shots finding the back of the net between both teams.
“It’s an easy team to get up for,” Larocque said. “We’ve had … some real tough series against Minnesota, and we know they’re a great program, so we’re excited to play against them.”
The Buckeyes look to fix their struggles at home and Rohlik said it’s all about fixing the mentality going forward.
“That’s a good question. Certainly if I had (that answer) we’d already have that fixed, but I think it’s just a mindset,” Rohlik said. “On the road we feel a little more loose for whatever reason, and we just have to come out here at home and we have to win hockey games no matter where we’re at.”
Puck drop for the series against Minnesota is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday and 8:00 p.m. Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.