This week Ohio State plays host to Minnesota, the No. 1 team in the Big Ten not to mention the No. 1 team in the country. There are a lot of story lines to this series. These are the Buckeyes' final home games of the season. Saturday is Senior Night. Additionally, the team still has an outside chance to climb into third place in the conference standings.
|Game Times||FRI at 7:30 p.m.||SAT at 6:30 p.m.|
|Radio||1460 AM||1460 AM|
Let's start with the most important factor, this week's match up. The Buckeyes have taken points off of every team in the Big Ten except for the Gophers. The two teams last met in January. Minnesota won the outdoor Hockey City Classic 1-0. A Sam Warning hat trick helped the Gophers come back to win the second game of the series 4-2.
You may also recall that the ketchup and mustard colored throwback sweaters of the HCC inspired the creation of The Condiment Cup. All OSU-Minnesota games are now contested for the Condi-Cup. (At least among fans. I don't suppose we'll convince anyone to bronze an actual condiment cup.)
The Gophers are no less dangerous now than they were in January. They still have talented scorers up and down their roster including juniors Warning (12-19--31), Kyle Rau (8-21--29), and Blue Jackets prospect Seth Ambroz (13-7--20) as well as freshmen Hudson Fasching (12-15--27) and Justin Kloos (10-15--25).
Minnesota is tough on defense too. They rank first in both the conference and the NCAA, allowing less than two goals per game. Two defensemen fans will want to keep an eye on are Team USA alum Brady Skjei and Blue Jackets prospect Mike Reilly. And of course teams have found it difficult to score on sophomore goalie Adam Wilcox (1.94 GAA, .932 Sv%).
The Buckeyes have their own stock of talented scorers, though they're going through a quiet spell. Ohio State has posted more than two goals just once in their last six games. Still, they're dangerous.
Ryan Dzingel continues to lead the Big Ten in point production (9-10--19) and is among the top 20 point getters in the nation (17--21--38). Max McCormick and Tanner Fritz are due. I think Darik Angeli has played well the last few games. It wouldn't surprise me to see him have a big series.
Although the Buckeye offense gets most of the press, they've been holding the fort pretty well defensively. While not perfect by any means, they've held opponents to two or fewer goals in seven of their last nine outings. As for which Buckeye goalie we'll see this week, your guess is as good as mine.
Matt Tomkins (2.70 GAA, .913 Sv%) earned both starts against Michigan last week. He's been good when healthy this season, though he does have a tendency to give up one bad goal in an otherwise great performance. Christian Frey (2.10 GAA, .934 Sv%) last played against Wisconsin on February 15th.
Fans will want to be sure to arrive early on Saturday as the Buckeyes will honor their four seniors prior to that game. OSU has put out two nice Senior Spotlight features on Alex Lippincott and Alex Szczechura. I assume spotlights on Curtis Gedig and Travis Statchuk are forthcoming.
These seniors have been big-time contributors to Buckeye hockey throughout their careers. Gedig stepped into the lineup as a smooth skating, rock solid defender. He's continued in that role ever since, quietly getting the job done on the blue line.
Although he's rarely named among Ohio State's offensive threats Szczechura has often been the guy to provide a clutch goal. He finishes his Buckeye career with three official game winners plus several non-statified game tying tallies and shootout markers.
The contributions of Lippincott and Statchuk are easy to miss if you aren't been paying attention. There isn't a column on the stat sheet for hard work or guts. Both are quality, blue collar guys who have demonstrated a willingness to fill whatever role the team asks of them time and again. They'll be missed for sure, but all four seniors are surely headed for great things whether on or off the ice.
Steve Rohlik talked about the seniors and the upcoming series earlier this week.
Fans attending tthis week's games should note that the doors will open 30 minutes early each night. This is to allow ample time for anyone interested in becoming a first time season ticket holder to take part in Ohio State's Select a Seat event.
- Travis Statchuk and Curtis Gedig reflect on their Buckeye careers here.
- Check out Ohio State's official series preview here.
- Jashvina Shah previews this week's Big Ten action for CHN.
- Paula Weston and Drew Claussen make their weekly conference predictions for USCHO.
- No team in the WCHA has more all-academic players than the Ohio State women. Congratulations, ladies!
- Congrats also to Kari and Sara Schmitt on their second and third team All-WCHA honors!
- The state high school hockey champs will be crowned at Nationwide Arena this week. Best of luck to St. Ignatius, Lake Catholic, St. Charles, and Sylvania Northview. The Blue Jackets have ticket and television info for anyone interested in checking that out.
Minnesota can clinch the regular season title with a sweep of Ohio State. A Gopher win plus a Badger loss does the trick too. (I think. I'm awful at math.) Michigan and Michigan State can both move up the board with a big points weekend. That, added to the longstanding rivalry between the teams, should make for a heck of a series.
The Buckeyes still have an outside shot at finishing third, but they'd need at least three and maybe four wins in their last four games. Fourth or fifth place is a more likely scenario. That would mean a first round showdown with Jake Hildebrand and Michigan State.
|big ten||w||l||t||sow||pts||this week|
|No. 1 Minnesota||12||2||2||0||38||at OSU|
|No. 5 Wisconsin||10||5||1||0||31||at PSU|
|No. 11/12 Michigan||8||6||2||1||27||vs/at MSU|
|Ohio State||5||7||4||3||21||vs MIN|
|Michigan State||3||7||6||4||19||at/vs MCH|
|Penn State||2||13||1||0||7||vs WIS|