No. 12 Ohio State (1-0-1) returns home this weekend for a two-game series against Nebraska-Omaha (2-0).
The Buckeyes are coming off a victory in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Toledo, Ohio, where they won both games, but because Friday’s game remained tied after the first overtime period, Ohio State’s shootout win officially counts as a tie.
“You got a group that went into the tournament with the goal of winning the tournament. I think that’s first and foremost,” head coach Steve Rohlik said. “I learned we got good leadership and you saw that in our seniors and our captains. We were kind of resilient.”
The Buckeyes are off to an unbeaten start, but Rohlik said they need to emphasize team defense and limit opposing shots. Rohlik said it is a concern that the Buckeyes have given up 112 shots so far, including their exhibition win.
The Mavericks shot 57 in their opening weekend sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, which they beat by a combined score of 11-1. They converted six power plays for goals on 11 attempts.
“Omaha’s proven they can put some goals on the board,” Rohlik said. “We gotta play good defense, and we gotta play from our goaltender out — something I’ve always preached — and we gotta get better in that area. If we don’t, Omaha’s probably gonna have the same result.”
Nebraska-Omaha senior forward Zach Jordan had three goals in the opening series and was fourth on the team with 26 points a season ago.
Senior forward Tristan Keck already has four points in his final season after scoring 14 his junior year.
This will be the first weekend the Buckeyes have some sort of normalcy, as they face the same opponent in both games.
“You’re playing the same team Friday and Saturday night. You can break down video a lot more, which we’ve been doing, and I think it’s going to really help us out,” senior forward Ronnie Hein said.
Despite a potent opening series for the Mavericks’ offense, one of Ohio State’s strengths lies in the play of junior goaltender Tommy Nappier. His 68 saves and .958 save percentage in the Ice Breaker Tournament earned him Big Ten Star of the Week.
“It’s definitely very comfortable knowing that if you do have that breakdown, which does happen in games, you have the Big Ten Goalie of the Year back there who’s going to bail you out nine times out of 10,” Hein said.
Puck drop for the Buckeyes’ home opener is 7 p.m. Friday, and game two of the home series is 5 p.m. Saturday at Value City Arena.