Coming off its first regular season Big Ten Championship and third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, Ohio State men’s hockey is set to continue one of its most successful stretches in program history.
The No. 12 Ohio State team will travel to Toledo, Ohio, Friday and Saturday to kick off the regular season against No. 14 Western Michigan in the Ice Breaker Tournament.
“We know we’re going to have our hands full. We gotta play our best game right off the hop,” head coach Steve Rohlik said.
The tournament also features Bowling Green and Rochester Institute of Technology.
“We gotta take care of business on Friday, and we’ll have video on both teams the next day. It’ll be a quick turnaround,” Rohlik said.
Senior defenseman Gordi Myer said no matter what time the team plays, it must be ready to take on its opponents.
“If we play at 5, we play at 5. If we play at 8, we play at 8. It’s just about adapting and being the best prepared team on the ice,” Myer said.
Western Michigan returns four of its top five point scorers from a season ago, as well as its top goal scorers in junior forward Josh Passolt and senior forward Hugh McGing, who each netted 16.
Junior forward Austin Rueschhoff scored 27 points in 2018-19, and at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, has at least a 4-inch size advantage on the entire Buckeye roster.
Ohio State was upset by Denver in the first round of the NCAA tournament this past season, winning just one game of its past eight after a 19-5-4 start and a preseason No. 1 ranking.
“It’s a different personality, a different group. Last year’s over. We did some good things, but you have to turn the page,” Rohlik said. “We want to compete hard. Any time you play Ohio State you know that it’s going to be a tough one, and I think that’s first and foremost.”
Ohio State returns a couple of its most essential pieces from a season ago in senior forward Tanner Laczynski and junior goaltender Tommy Nappier.
Laczynski finished second on the team with 30 goals in 2018-19 and added a team-best 20 assists. The Philadelphia Flyers draftee is the No. 2 returning point scorer in the country, with 109 on his career.
Nappier was the Big Ten Goalie of the Year this past season and No. 4 in the nation with a .934 save percentage. While he split games with former goalie Sean Romeo a season ago, Nappier is expected to be the lone starter this year.
Myer said because of the experience the Buckeyes have as a team, there are expectations to make it as far as they have in the past.
“For our team in the locker room, there’s a lot of us who have gotten really far but it’s not far enough so we know Friday it starts. Every game counts,” Myer said.
Ohio State began its season with an exhibition win over Western 5-2 this past Sunday, scoring three power play goals on six attempts.
Myer said the tournament will be a homecoming of sorts, as he grew up just nine miles from Toledo in Sylvania, Ohio.
“It means a lot being able to go home and play in front of everyone. There’s gonna be a lot of people who have been a part of my journey here, so to be able to open my senior year and share it with them, it’ll be special,” Myer said.
The puck will drop at 5 p.m. for the Buckeyes against Western Michigan, and they return for a second game at a to-be-determined time Saturday against either Bowling Green or RIT.