For Ohio State men’s hockey, Senior Night emotions will run high this weekend, but so will expectations.
The No. 10 Buckeyes (17-9-3, 16-7-3 Big Ten) will face off against Wisconsin (13-18-1, 6-15-1) to close the regular season.
“It’s been a long four years here, so all the seniors kind of deserve that moment with their families out on the ice,” senior forward Ronnie Hein said. “We’re gonna enjoy it as much as we can, but once that’s over, we’ve got a game to play, and hopefully we win two this weekend.”
This past weekend, the Buckeyes swept the Spartans 1-0 and 4-2 in East Lansing, Michigan.
Senior forward Carson Meyer said it’s no secret the Buckeyes had some ups and downs during the second half of the year, but the win against Michigan State was uplifting.
“It’s just huge for our confidence, knowing that we’ve gotten accustomed to playing one-goal games, which is going to be really important in the stretch going into playoffs,” Meyer said. “Just knowing that no matter what the score is, if we’re down or we’re up, we can play through it and we can find ways to win games.”
The Buckeyes enter the weekend tied with Minnesota for second place in the Big Ten.
Hein said he and the rest of the seniors are motivated by the possibility of hoisting a tournament trophy before the end of their Buckeye tenure.
“If we don’t happen to win the Big Ten regular season this weekend, there’s still the Big Ten Tournament, the NCAA Tournament, which –– at the end of the day for me –– I’ll trade that all in for a national championship with these guys this year,” Hein said.
The teams met in Madison, Wisconsin, Jan. 10 and 11 and split two games. Ohio State won 4-2 before losing 5-2.
Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said it will take a high level of effort to defeat the Badgers.
“We came away with a big win on Friday and they came away with a big win on Saturday — two pretty even teams and we gotta be at our best,” Rohlik said.
The Badgers are coming off a weekend sweep against Arizona State, winning 7-6 and 6-2.
“Any team that puts up 13 goals in a weekend, that’s definitely something to look out for,” Meyer said. “We know they have a lot of offensive power and some high-end draft picks that we’ve gotta try to shut down.”
Earlier in the week, Wisconsin sophomore forward Roman Ahcan was named the Big Ten’s first star after picking up his first hat trick of the year and scoring both game-winning goals in the two games against Arizona State.
The eight members of the Buckeyes’ senior class will be showcased during Hockey Hour before the game Saturday night.
“I just want them to go out there and play,” Rohlik said. “But I think that’s unrealistic at times when they are going through the emotions of, ‘This is it,’ and realizing that they are getting closer to the next step.”
Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday.