A three-week intermission marking the halfway point of the season is just across the frozen pond for Ohio State men’s hockey, but standing on the ice is a familiar conference foe.
No. 7 Ohio State (9-4-1, 5-3 Big Ten) will take on Minnesota (5-8-3, 2-3-3-2) this weekend to cap off the first half of the regular season at home.
“The last two games before break are going to be important going into the few games after break, especially because we’re going down to Vegas, and we got Colgate right after Christmas. We just wanna go off on the right note,” junior defenseman Grant Gabrielle said.
Before they can look toward break or this weekend, the Buckeyes have to take care of one thing first –– exams.
“It’s a busy week. These guys with their finals have a lot going on,” head coach Steve Rohlik said. “These guys realize that there’s some break right ahead of them, so there is a lot going through their minds, and our deal is we just kind of keep moving forward as usual and practice has been really good today and yesterday.”
Ohio State is riding a three-game win streak after sweeping Michigan State this past weekend at home.
Along with the sweep, Ohio State junior goalie Tommy Nappier got back in the net Saturday after an injury kept him out of a game. He recorded 23 saves and earned his first shutout of the season and Big Ten Third Star of the Week honors.
Ohio State’s power play will be tested again this week as it faces the No. 21 penalty-kill in the country. The Golden Gophers have killed 83 percent of power plays they have faced.
Ohio State’s power play is ranked No. 8 in the country as it converts 25 percent. However, the Buckeyes went 0-11 against Michigan State.
“We have a lot of good players on our power play. I think that we will figure it out,” junior forward Austin Pooley said. “Just continue to shoot the puck, continue to make plays, and I think winning draws is a big thing. Winning draws in the O-zone usually leads to a chance or two.”
Minnesota’s scoring is led by sophomore forward Ranta Sampo, who is tied for the most goals on the team with six and most points on the team with 10. Junior forward Scott Reedy also has six goals so far this year and junior forward Brannon McManus has 10 points on the year.
Minnesota freshman goalie Jared Moe and junior goalie Jack LaFontaine have evenly split all 16 starts. As a team, they have a 3.44 goals-against average with a .890 save percentage.
The puck will drop at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.