Yep, it’s red and gray time as Miami faces yet another in-state and former conference rival, Ohio State.
Miami has dominated the Buckeyes over the past several years owning an 8-2-1 record against them in the previous 11 contests. Overall, Miami leads the all-time series with the “little hockey sisters of the poor” from Cowtown by a 71-61-13 margin, but it obviously has always been relatively close as both programs were down for many years. It’s a great rivalry and is good for both programs for different reasons. I’m glad the two schools plan to continue playing each other on an annual basis.
duhOSU head coach Steve Rohlik is in his second year behind the bench after the shocking dismissal of Mark Osiecki. I still contend that was a mistake, but Rohlik has provided a steadying hand as he attempts to solidify OSU as a perennial Big Six power along with Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. With the two losses to Miami last season, Rohlik is still looking for his first win against the RedHawks.
Last weekend, the Buckeyes split two overtime games at Cheap Furniture Arena against then #3 Providence winning Friday by a surprising 5-4 score and dropping the series finale by a more expected final score of 2-1. I say the Friday score was surprising because I thought it would take at least three games for duhOSU to score five goals, especially against a top five team like Providence.
But since last weekend, the Friars faced the U.S. U-18 squad in an exhibition tying the youngsters 3-3. So, two things there…first, that’s a pretty darn good U.S. U-18 team this year and maybe the Friars aren’t quite as good (right now) as anticipated. The Friars highly touted goaltender, Jon Gillies, currently sports a 2.89 GAA and .895 save percentage, which is hardly “Mike Richter Award Watch List” worthy. But, it’s early.
duhOSU returns several familiar names to Miami fans including seniors Tanner Fritz and Nick Oddo. Seriously, these guys have to be on the 8-year program. Of course we’re talking about duhOSU so that shouldn’t surprise.
Fritz led Ohio State with 11-26-37 in his sophomore season but trailed off a bit to 8-24-32 last year. Still, Fritz is a solid, if unspectacular, player for the Buckeyes and is off to a 2-2-4 start in their first two games.
Oddo had a bit of a breakout year last year with 9-21-30 after posting just 17 total points in his first two seasons with the red and gray.
duhOSU did lose two big offensive contributors in Ryan Dzingel (22-24-46) and Max McCormick (11-24-35) who both left Cowtown with college eligibility remaining to sign pro deals. Dzingel may have more upside, but I have to question the advice these two received. Neither really strike me as immediate impact kind of NHL prospect meaning you’re way better off getting a degree and moving on a year later.
Returning in net for duhOSU is Christian Frey (9-4-3, 2.27 GAA, .929 save percentage), who joined the Buckeyes in an emergency at mid-season after all hell broke loose in the crease. Ohio State burned through several goaltenders losing some to departure and others to injury. Paula Weston has a bit on this here. However, Frey solidified the Buckeyes problems in net and it was after his arrival that the team played a bit better. Actually, if not for a 3rd period collapse against Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Six Championship Game, they would have made the NCAA tournament. Instead, OSU surrendered the final three goals in a 5-4 OT loss to the Badgers. But before that loss, Ohio State defeated Michigan State and Minnesota at the Xcel Center so they did show some promise in that late season tournament run.
But, that was last year.
Overall, Ohio State finished the 2013-14 season 18-14-5, good enough for fourth in the Big Six. The Buckeyes had the 14th ranked offense in the nation averaging 3.19 goals per game, but were tied for 28th nationally in defense, giving up an average of 2.70 per contest.
Defensively, the Buckeyes are a veteran group likely to pose a significant challenge for Miami’s corps of talented forwards. But again, they’re filled with solid, but unspectacular, contributors throughout their lineup. Miami is more talented, but that doesn’t always mean wins as we learned weekly a year ago.
Last year, Miami swept OSU in impressive fashion winning by 6-2 and 6-3 scores as they opened the season strong. However, this looks like another split weekend with each team winning on it’s home ice, but you never know. Cheap Furniture Arena should be filled with Miami fans tonight, but I’ll still say split until I have a better read on whether or not Miami can fix the continued defensive issues that are plaguing the team.
Both games face-off at 7:05 PM with tonight’s game at Cheap Furniture Arena in Columbus and tomorrow’s at the beautiful hockey-only facility known better as Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center.
Catch all the action at MURedHawks.com. An All-Access broadcast will also be available for both contests. Saturday’s matchup will also be streamed on NCHC.tv.