Value City Arena is cold and Buckeye Ice Hockey is hot. These two things don’t normally go together.
The Ohio State Men’s Ice Hockey Program has been in a lull since last millennium—seriously, they haven’t been past the second round of the playoffs since 1998. However, the tide, er, ice, is finally changing. No—it’s tide. Definitely tide.
The Buckeyes are 6-3-3 overall and are sporting a No. 15 ranking in the country, again, a ranking in general that fans, players and coaches aren’t used to seeing.
But the team is on a new trajectory, and it’s clicking. Fifth-year head coach Steve Rohlik led this Buckeye squad to the playoffs last season. The last time that happened the Buckeyes’ football team was still being coached by a legend in a sweater vest.
Rohlik inherited a program in 2013 that had hovered around the .500 record mark for years, and was becoming one of the more underwhelming feature sports that the university has to offer.
Whether most believe it or not, ice hockey is a major sport, and it’s gaining heavy traction in Columbus. With the Blue Jackets off to a historically great start and showing promise to be a championship contending team in the next few years, the Buckeye hockey team seems to be doing the same.
Improving his team’s record was something that Rohlik wanted when he came into the program, but finishing the season at 21-12-6 last year was something that he even likely didn’t expect, at least yet.
But it’s time to face the music, and though that sounds rather discouraging, it’s all the opposite: Ohio State has a good ice hockey team and they are starting to act like it.
Tanner Laczynski and Mason Jobst are two forwards who are leading the way statistically for the surprisingly young group. Laczynski has 13 points on the year and Jobst with 12, in only 12 games played each. Talk about efficiency.
As long as we’re being repetitive with numbers, the Buckeyes have had 12 different players light the lamp this season—score a goal—and it doesn’t take an overpaid ESPN daytime analyst to know that depth is never a bad thing.
Making a run in the playoffs means having superstars to rely on. With how Laczynski and Jobst are skating, the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes seem alive and well.
A solid goaltender is always fun to have between the pipes as well, and Ohio State has just that in junior tendy Sean Romeo. He’s displaying a 1.73 goals against average with a .924 save percentage so far this year, and to make it past that first round of the playoffs, he’ll need to be as good as Lil’ Romeo was during his rapping days. Even better, actually. Yeah, a pretty difficult task.
As previously stated, the youth of the Buckeyes is evident. Only six skaters on the roster are seniors, and most of the stat leaders are coming from juniors and underclassmen. This experience and growth will bode well for the future of this program.
If the Buckeyes truly want to, well, I was going to say return to excellence, but that hasn’t really been a thing. The ‘Frozen Four’ trip in 1998 was the furthest the team has ever gone. The Buckeyes will have to find excellence first.
So, Rohlik, expectations are pretty low, and that seems to be in your favor thus far. If role players can step up and goaltenders can get hot, we may see Ohio State playing a few rounds deep this year, gaining experience for the future.
Because c’mon. The Frozen Four is such a cool name. We need to work to get back to that.