Urban Meyer’s bunch wasn’t the only Ohio State team to roll out of Ann Arbor victorious last weekend. Steve Rohlik’s men's hockey squad did the football team one better by beating Michigan twice.
Yes, Rohlik said it was a happy bus ride back to Columbus after Ohio State swept a two-game set from the then-17th-ranked Wolverines. But with Penn State next, the Buckeyes know they cannot let rivalry wins turn into a hangover, or it will cost them. The Nittany Lions visit Value City Arena this weekend for a two-game series.
“The easy thing for us was simply seeing Penn State is coming to town,” Rohlik said. “They have a very good hockey team, and we know what they are capable of. We certainly enjoyed the weekend, enjoyed the drive home. But we knew we had to get right back to work starting on Monday.”
Although the Nittany Lions aren’t nationally ranked, they have Ohio State’s attention.
Penn State is just above Ohio State in the muddled Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes sit tied for fifth in the seven-team league but are just two points back of No. 2 Minnesota.
Like the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions have three wins and a tie in their past four games. They are a point ahead of Ohio State in the conference standings and have wins over Minnesota and Michigan this season.
Buckeyes sophomore Tanner Laczynski said: “Winning at Michigan was awesome, and sweeping them was a big confidence booster for us."
Laczynski has 17 points, including five goals, to lead the team in scoring and rank 15th in the nation. He is riding a five-game point streak.
The Nittany Lions come into the weekend with the third-highest-scoring team in the nation, averaging 3.81 goals.
Ohio State is giving up just 1.93 goals on average, second-lowest in the nation. Senior goalie Sean Romeo is a big part of the success: Romeo (7-3-3) is sixth in the nation with a goals-against average of 1.69, and his saves on 93 percent of shots faced ranks him seventh.
“We know they are a team which will get their shots in; they’re going to get their opportunities,” Rohlik said. “We understand how they play, so we have to be really disciplined in our system and play five-man defense. We have to stick with it. They are going to throw things at the net.”
Added Laczynski: “When you have a goalie who is hot like Sean is, it gives us confidence. We know he’s ready to play. And the coaches have drilled ‘defense first’ into us. And we’re getting offense out of our defensive play. We’re buying into the system.”
After this weekend’s series, the Buckeyes play host to Minnesota next week before embarking on their holiday break.
Friday’s game kicks off a six-game run on home ice, with the Buckeyes really needing to improve on their 1-2-2 record at Value City Arena.
“When you look at the Big Ten, look at the logjam after Notre Dame, every game is important,” Rohlik said. “We have seven really good teams in our league, and every point is huge.”