It wasn’t the end they wanted, but senior forwards Ronnie Hein and Carson Meyer still capped their Ohio State careers on a high note.
The Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin in back-to-back games in Columbus, Ohio, to advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament, where they were destined for a matchup with rival Michigan.
But just three days before the March 15 matchup with the Wolverines, the remainder of the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
“It was a bummer, but at the end of the day, this is a lot bigger than just hockey right now,” Hein said.
The rivalry game was slated to take place at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, where the teams played in the conference semifinals just two years prior.
Hein missed that game with an injury and lost out on the chance to gain back the opportunity this year. He said it was disappointing to not experience that moment with his fellow Buckeyes.
“Two years before, when we played Michigan, I was out with my hip surgery, so I did not get to play in that at all towards the end of the year,” Hein said.
The Big Ten Conference announced March 12 that it was canceling all conference and nonconference competitions through the end of the academic year.
Hein, the team’s head captain, said the campaign’s abrupt end didn’t leave room for a proper goodbye to his teammates.
“We were all getting ready to go play at Nationwide and the next day we had guys packing up their stuff and going home,” Hein said. “That day in the locker room, when coach told us that everything was kind of done, that was the last time the entire group will be together at one time.”
A sixth-round pick by the Blue Jackets in the 2017 NHL Draft, Meyer finished with a team-high 17 goals for Ohio State in 2019-20.
The sudden end to the season was a shock to the system, he said.
“The best part of my days were coming to the rink in the morning and getting to spend time to talk to all my teammates, and now that obviously is not something I get to do anymore. Now I just wake up and pet my dogs and have coffee, so it’s definitely an adjustment,” Meyer said.
While the Buckeyes cannot be together physically, their bond has not been broken.
“We try to stay in touch with everybody as best as we can over FaceTime, texting and stuff like that,” Meyer said.
Although he’s glad to be back home with his family, Hein said he cannot help but reminisce on what could have been.
“Right now, we could be planning how to score,” Hein said.
With the future of the NHL season still up in the air, Meyer said trying to stay in shape amid gym and ice rink closures presents a dilemma.
“The hardest thing for me is: I don’t wanna work out too hard right now and the season ends up getting canceled, because it’s going to be a really long offseason and I do not want to overdo it really early on and burn out,” Meyer said.
Like all Ohio State students graduating in spring 2020, Hein and Meyer will not be walking through Ohio Stadium to receive their diplomas in the traditional Ohio State way.
“Obviously you’d love to have your senior year end the way it has for the last three years for the seniors above me. Obviously that did not work out this way,” Hein said. “It’s been a bummer. It’s going to be something we remember for the rest of our lives.”
Despite the uncertainty of the future, both seniors agree that they are prepared for what comes their way.
“I’m going to keep working out and keep myself in shape for an opportunity that does come up,” Hein said.