After seven straight wins, all in conference, the No. 2 Ohio State men’s hockey team (19-5-4, 12-3-3 Big Ten) will go up against Minnesota (11-14-4, 8-9-3 Big Ten) at home this weekend with an opportunity to lock up the No. 1 seed heading into the Big Ten tournament.
Consistency has been key recently for Ohio State, as it has won each of the past seven games, placing the team firmly at No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 2 in USCHO polls. Minnesota is ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten and currently remains unranked.
With two wins against the Golden Gophers, the Buckeyes will clinch the Big Ten in the regular season with four games left on the schedule.
The Buckeyes defense has been critical to the team’s success. Junior forward Carson Meyer emphasized the importance of both of their goaltenders: redshirt senior Sean Romeo and sophomore Tommy Nappier.
“I think we play incredibly confident in front of each of them the same,” Meyer said. “They’re both doing unbelievable this year.”
Where Ohio State sees its defense as one of its greatest assets, Minnesota has seen quite a bit less success this year: the Golden Gophers defense is ranked No. 42 in the nation.
That said, the Golden Gophers are strong on the man advantage, with the No. 5 power play in the country and a 26.7 percent success rate.
Head coach Steve Rohlik recognizes the significance of going up against a team that finds decent success in defending against power plays.
“We’ve got to be good on the power play,” Rohlik said. “Hopefully we’ll get some opportunities, but you’ve got to make your own breaks, and we’ve got to prepare. We’re putting the work in this week, and hopefully we’re ready for it.”
Minnesota is led by junior forward Rem Pitlick, who has tallied 17 goals, tied for No. 4 in the country, and 18 assists so far this season. The 35 points is tied for No. 7 in the NCAA.
Senior forward Tyler Sheehy trails closely behind with 10 goals and 34 points, which is tied for ninth-most in the country.
Both matches against Minnesota this season have resulted in 2-2 ties, with Ohio State winning in the 3-on-3 overtime in each game for two points in the Big Ten as opposed to Minnesota’s one in each matchup.
Senior forward Brendon Kearney is hoping to put on a good game for the Ohio State fans to reward their support.
The attendance at the Schottenstein Center has been more than 6,800 in the past four home games for the men’s hockey team, a number the Buckeyes reached only four times overall the previous season.
“Buckeye Nation is always fantastic,” Kearney said. “For the past few weeks, we’ve been creeping on 10,000 fans a night for the past six or seven home games.”
No. 2 Ohio State takes on Minnesota at the Schottenstein Center at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.