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Opinion: Ohio State should be on its way to becoming a hockey school

Ohio State junior forward Dakota Joshua celebrates his second period goal against Denver in the NCAA Tournament on March 25, 2018. Credit: Nick Hudak | Lantern photographer

Boston College. Minnesota. Wisconsin. Three established hockey programs, three established “hockey schools” and the only three programs to have both a men’s and women’s team in the Frozen Four in the same season.

The only three, that is, until last Sunday, when Ohio State joined the list.

This season, the women’s hockey team swept the No. 1 team in the country in Wisconsin, and the men’s hockey team beat Michigan five times, more than any team in the program’s history.

The teams are performing as the school’s top programs, and they both should only get better next year. So, with football and basketball usually in the spotlight, how can Ohio State build on its success and become a hockey school?

Success in the upcoming seasons will definitely help, however it only goes so far — as the pistol and synchronized swimming teams will tell you. It would take a shift in the culture for Ohio State to resemble anything of a “hockey school,” but it could be well on its way.

Football will always be king at Ohio State. But there’s no reason to think Ohio State hockey should not be spoken in the same breathe as Boston College, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

There are already plans on the table for a new hockey arena that would allow Ohio State’s attendance — which finished eighth in the NCAA, but bottom five in percent of arena capacity — to create more of a fan-friendly atmosphere than it does in the massive Schottenstein Center where it plays now.

On the other side, the proposed capacity of 4,000 and the ability to have an established hockey-specific location would help the women’s hockey team, which plays in one of the smallest and most outdated venues in the nation.

And with hype around the two programs at a high level, it’s convenient a new arena is on the horizon.

When the project is completed, it will be up to the respective teams to continue the success they have shown this season.

Fortunately for Ohio State, both teams look to be strong in both depth and coaching. Steve Rohlik and Nadine Muzerall both earned coach of the year honors in their respective conferences, and both teams were led in points by underclassmen. The women’s hockey team has two freshmen stars in Emma Maltais and Tatum Skaggs and still has redshirt junior goalie Kassidy Sauve for another season.

The accolades don’t stop at the college level. Eleven players from Ohio State are currently playing in the NHL, which only helps to shift attention to a program that has made only two Frozen Fours.

The future is more than bright for the hockey programs — it’s glowing, and a new hockey arena would bring more attention to a sport that is undeservedly flying under the radar.

Even with the most successful year of hockey Ohio State — and Columbus, for that matter — has ever seen, it takes more than good seasons to shine at a school with a football team that is expected to contend for a title every season. Oh yeah, a basketball team rising faster than anyone predicted doesn’t help shifting focus toward the hockey programs and getting students into seats, either.

You know what does help? A national championship, a new arena, a new reason to care and a new sense of consistency that’s never been there before. The talent is there for the future, but if the men’s hockey team can make history on April 7 with a national championship, the establishment of Ohio State as a hockey powerhouse might be coming sooner rather than later.

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