Buckeyes in the midst of tough road stretch
Having resiliency in college hockey is often tough especially for young teams. Just last season, a group of 12 freshmen learned how difficult it is to bounce back the next night after losing a contest.
Those very same players who were freshmen last year hope those lessons were learned and that last weekend’s series at Minnesota-Duluth showed this Buckeye squad has grown from last season.
Ohio State goes on the road for its second consecutive weekend taking a 1-1 record to No. 20 Quinnipiac for a two-game series beginning tonight.
Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki turned to his three captains for leadership after the Buckeyes lost a tough contest to the No.13 ranked Bulldogs 6-2 last Friday.
He was impressed with the job that seniors Alex Carlson and Brandon Martell and sophomore Matt Johnson did following Friday’s abysmal performance. Ohio State came back and defeated Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 in Saturday’s rematch.
“There was a calming factor, after a tough situation on Friday and to turn around and play a game on Saturday, especially against a team that we’re trying to mirror,” Osiecki said. “Our leaders did a good job of keeping things calmed and focused.
“You could feel a difference on the day on Saturday heading to the rink. Very focused. The captains they get a lot of that credit.”
Saturday’s game exemplified remaining tough and focused.
The Buckeyes led 2-0 through the first intermission and looked really good. Minnesota-Duluth responded with two goals to take a 2-2 draw into the second intermission.
But sophomore Max McCormick scored the game-winner to put Ohio State up 3-2. A season after the Buckeyes lost a number of one-goal games; this was the win the Buckeyes needed early in the year.
“On Saturday night, we were better in all aspects of the game,” McCormick said. “We battled harder, details of the game better, everything was better. We came back and that was a great response by the team. I was proud of everyone.”
After going with senior Brady Hjelle on Friday, Osiecki turned to freshman Collin Olson on Saturday to right the ship. In his collegiate debut, Olson stopped 26-of-28 shots faced.
“Olson played well, no doubt that he did what he needed to do,” Osiecki said. “But we played so much better in front of him. With Brady, it was almost a throw him out to the wolves type thing… A lot of pressure on him. The next night, (Olson) did his job and played well, not going to take that away from him, but it certainly was not the reason we won.”
The speed of the collegiate game did not bother Olson who played with the United State National Development Team last season. Olson played in parts of six exhibitions against collegiate opponents and had an 89.3 save percentage and compiled a 2-3-1 record.
“It is another step up from where I was at,” Olson said of his first collegiate start. “We were fortunate enough to play some D-1 teams last year. Even now, guys shoot the puck harder, they battle a little faster, guys are bigger, stronger.”
Osiecki noted that he wants to continue using a two-goalie system until one of the goalies becomes a clear No. 1. This does not bother Olson who split time with three other goalies last year with the US NTDP.
“That is something I have been doing the last two years,” Olson said. “Obviously coming here, I knew they will go with one guy I just have to keep working hard and at the end of the day, play one spot out there and work hard for it.”
This weekend’s series marks the fourth-straight season that Ohio State and Quinnipiac have battled in the nonconference schedule. The two squads have split the last two series. The Bobcats swept the Buckeyes in 2009-10 in Columbus.
Special teams were not so special last week against Minnesota-Duluth. Ohio State only converted on one out of its 13 power plays (7.7 percent) against the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs fared much better converting on 5 out of 14 power-play opportunities (35.7 percent).
J. Justin Boggs, Columbus Wired