The Buckeyes hope to stake their flag atop the Big Ten standings as the 2019-20 season nears its home stretch.
After a win and tie against Notre Dame, No. 6 Ohio State (15-6-3, 8-4-2-0 Big Ten) will travel to Minnesota (8-10-4, 3-5-4-3) for a two-game weekend series with a one-point lead in the conference ladder.
The Buckeyes remain without junior goaltender Tommy Nappier, the team’s regular starter and 2019 Big Ten Goalie of the Year. Nappier has an undisclosed leg injury that has kept him out of the past three games.
However, Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said the backups –– freshman Ryan Snowden and junior Evan Moyse –– have been preparing for the weekend series.
“He’s still day to day. We have quite a few guys still dealing with that, but like I said before, every team does, and the way Ryan and Moyse are practicing, I feel very confident,” Rohlik said.
Ohio State and Minnesota met twice earlier this season, with one Buckeye win and one tie. Minnesota gained the bonus conference point in extra time.
Rohlik said the Buckeyes have been reviewing tapes to see Minnesota’s playing style on its oversized ice rink.
“We’re playing on a big sheet up there,” Rohlik said. “The game changes a bit so we try to watch a little bit of their games. Their last game was in Michigan State and that wasn’t a big sheet, so we go back even further to see what they did.”
Compared to the average ice rink size (200 feet long, 85 feet wide), Minnesota’s ice rink is Olympic size (200 feet long, 100 feet wide).
It’s a sheet of ice the Buckeyes haven’t won a game on since Dec. 3, 2016. Ohio State has gone 1-2-3 on the road at Minnesota in the past six meetings.
This matchup hits home for freshman defenseman James Marooney, who is from Minnesota and will face his brother Joey in the series.
“My brother, that would be really fun to play against him. We grew up playing against each other in the backyard and on the street, so it would be fun to have an official match against him,” Marooney said.
Sophomore forward Gustaf Westlund will also be playing against someone familiar — Minnesota sophomore forward Sammy Walker, his former teammate on the Lincoln Stars.
“You are kind of aware of who’s gonna be there, but I mean, Sammy Walker and I used to play in Lincoln for a little bit and that’s always a fun rivalry,” Westlund said.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Minneapolis.