Right after winning the Big Ten regular season, the No. 7 Ohio State men’s hockey team (19-8-5, 12-6-4 Big Ten) will play its final regular season game when it hosts Michigan State (11-16-5, 7-11-4 Big Ten) this weekend.
Ohio State has once again dropped in the USCHO polls, this time falling from No. 6 to No. 7. Michigan State, meanwhile, remains unranked in the USCHO polls, but has been consistently ranked last in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes went from a seven-game winning streak to hitting a bump in the season recently, having lost three straight games followed by a tie. The tie in the record books was an overtime win against Michigan in the Big Ten standings, giving Ohio State enough points to clinch the conference regular season title.
Michigan State has also had a rough patch recently, having won only one of its past five games.
Senior defenseman Sasha Larocque believes Ohio State is taking its recent Big Ten regular season win and turning that into positive momentum going into the weekend.
“You play some great teams, you play good games and it doesn’t always go your way,” Larocque said. “To win something like [the Big Ten regular season title] the way we did, it is definitely good and should help morale and help us push through.”
While the Buckeyes lead the Spartans in offense, defense and win percentage, Michigan State has a higher power play percentage, ranking No. 8 nationally with a 23.89 percent success rate.
Head coach Steve Rohlik said Ohio State will need to avoid the penalty box in order to counter the Spartans’ major strength.
“We’re going to have to be at our best,” Rohlik said. “We certainly have to be more disciplined than we were this weekend as far as penalties go. The best way to kill their power plays is to stay out of the box.”
Michigan State is led by junior forward Taro Hirose, who currently leads the nation with 35 assists and 50 points overall this season.
While Hirose is a major contributor, Rohlik believes the entire Michigan State offense is what the Buckeyes should really worry about.
“We can’t just try to stop him,” Rohlik said. “That whole line: People forget how good they are. They work extremely hard.”
Senior forward Mason Jobst agrees with Rohlik’s sentiment.
“They have some very high-end, skilled guys,” Jobst said. “That top line is as good as any other line in the entire country so when it comes to shutting those guys down it’s very important; they’re very good.”
No. 7 Ohio State takes on Michigan State for its final regular season games of the season this weekend at the Schottenstein Center. The games begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday.