The intensity is ramped up for Ohio State men’s hockey this week, and with Michigan coming to town, it’s no secret why.
“Well, you can ask 35 other sports here on campus. I think that’s an easy answer,” head coach Steve Rohlik said.
No. 13 Ohio State (4-1-1) hosts archrival Michigan (3-2-1) for a weekend series that will mark each team’s first conference matchup of the season.
Michigan got two wins and a tie in its four games against Ohio State this past season, and despite the added motivation, Rohlik said the Buckeyes must be able to focus on the details.
“It’s great to get excited. I think that’s why you play the game and I think the guys understand that this week, and they understand who we’re playing,” Rohlik said. “But at the end of the day when the puck drops you certainly just have to do your own job.”
The two teams met for the first time in 1964 and have played against each other every year since the 1981-82 season. The Wolverines hold a commanding lead over the Buckeyes in the all-time series with a record of 83-44-14. However, the Buckeyes have turned a corner as they hold a 6-3-1 advantage in the past 10 meetings.
“It’s everything. It’s why you come to Ohio State. This game. This is a big game. This is probably the biggest game of the year for us,” redshirt senior defenseman Wyatt Ege said. “We get to play them four times and we have to beat them four times.”
Ohio State is coming off a weekend sweep of the Mercyhurst Lakers on the road, and Ege was named the Big Ten Third Star of the Week as he recorded the first hat trick for Ohio State since former forward Davis Gust did it in 2016.
“I think in the moment you think it’s not really a big deal. You’re looking to win,” Ege said. “Now, looking back on it, you’re like, ‘Wow, OK, maybe that was sort of a big deal.’ You got our media people tweeting out that it hasn’t happened in a long time so maybe it does mean something.”
Michigan is coming off a series against then-No. 18 Western Michigan, which it beat at home 4-0 Friday before traveling to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for a 4-1 loss Saturday.
This will be Michigan’s third series against ranked opponents this year, as it also took on then-No. 11 Clarkson on opening weekend, but went 0-1-1 in the two matchups.
Michigan is averaging 2.5 goals per game so far this season behind the output of junior forward Jack Becker and senior forward Will Lockwood, who both lead the team with three scores. Becker also is tied with freshman forward Johnny Beecher for the most points on the team with four apiece.
“[A key is] keeping them off the power play because they’re a skill team. That’s what they’re looking to do –– score, capitalize on the power play, so we have to keep them off,” Ege said.
Michigan sophomore goalie Strauss Mann has started all six games for the Wolverines so far this season, with a .939 save percentage and 1.80 goals allowed average.
Puck drop Friday night is scheduled for 7 p.m., followed by a 5 p.m. start Saturday.