Ohio State men’s hockey has been swept by just one team this season, and it’s a foe the Buckeyes must face again this weekend.
No. 9 Ohio State (14-6-2, 7-4-1-0 Big Ten) hosts No. 18 Notre Dame (10-9-3, 5-5-2-1) in a top 20 clash Friday and Saturday for a rematch of their hotly contested November series.
This past game against Wisconsin is the second time this season the Buckeyes have dropped the second contest of a series after winning the first. Head coach Steve Rohlik said he understands what the issues have been for the Buckeyes.
“It’s a long weekend and we got to put in more consistency in getting back to back from game to game and period to period,” Rohlik said. “If we get an opportunity to win on Friday, we really have to be at our best on Saturday because the other team knows they don’t want to lose two in a row.”
The Buckeyes’ preparation this week starts with team connection.
“We watch video, and we put a blueprint together and understand the tendencies of other teams, but for us right now, it’s all about what we do and five men connected,” Rohlik said. “It’s about our structure to compete, and I think that’s what we got to get back to.”
The two teams met for the first time Feb. 13, 1965, and have played against each other every year since the ’65-66 season. All time, the series between the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish is tied.
“It’s almost like us and Michigan State in the past. It’s funny how teams match up, and I think the styles are similar. At the end of the day, they don’t beat themselves. Well coached, great goaltending factors. We try to play the same way,” Rohlik said.
Even the teams’ past series was close, as the Fighting Irish took the first matchup 3-2 in overtime and edged past the Buckeyes 2-1 in the following game.
“Both teams have good structure. It’s a, ‘Who’s gonna mess up first?’ kind of game, so we can’t be the ones to mess up this time,” redshirt senior defenseman Wyatt Ege said.
Notre Dame senior goalie Cale Morris, No. 5 in the Big Ten with a .917 save percentage, is the opponent Ege said he looks forward to playing against most on the Fighting Irish.
“They have a good goalie, and he’s been there for a while. Maybe scoring a few goals on him would be nice,” Ege said.
In order to win both games this weekend, Ege said consistency will be critical.
“It happens sometimes. We play bad on Friday and good on Saturday,” Ege said. “So I think it’s one thing we need to get better at going on in the season because eventually we are going to have to win two games in a row. We can’t keep winning one and losing the other.”
Ohio State junior forward Austin Pooley said Notre Dame’s patience is a key element in this weekend’s series.
“They never beat themselves. Sometimes they frustrate teams just because maybe they aren’t getting offensive chances. For them being that patient, we need to make sure we are being that patient too and continue to stick to our game,” Pooley said.
Ohio State and Notre Dame play in the Schottenstein Center at 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday.