Ohio State’s Sean Romeo has found through years of playing goalie that he zeroes in better when he zones out.
That means, more than anything else, shutting off his cellphone about 24 hours before a game, or in the case of this week, about midafternoon Friday. OSU, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional in Allentown, Pennsylvania, will take on Princeton on Saturday. The winner will play Denver or Penn State on Sunday with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line.
“When I was younger I just had some unwanted texts on game day that kind of distracted me, so I wanted to eliminate that and turn my phone off,” Romeo said.
He prefers to narrow his focus as a game nears. A text message or tweet about this or that can be like a blinking light.
“I just want to kind of do my own thing,” Romeo said. “Whatever is out there for me to see, I’ll see it after the game.”
His aim is to find calm before dealing with the chaos, which is exactly what a stint in front of the net is all about.
“You know you’ve done it hundreds of times, so it’s just repetition,” Romeo said. “It helps when things kind of go crazy.”
The more desperate a game gets, the crazier it can be. Like two weeks ago when the Buckeyes beat Michigan in overtime in a Big Ten semifinal, the Wolverines’ Coopere Marody had scored in two unconventional ways, one a backward spinning swipe that seemed to come from the Ice Capades.
Then last week in overtime in the Big Ten title game at Notre Dame, Romeo took on a charging Cameron Morrison on a sudden breakaway. But just as Morrison was ready to shoot, an OSU defender slid in front, creating enough of a blind spot that by the time Romeo saw the puck again it was traveling 90 mph-plus into the net.
Thus the plight for Romeo, who has a save percentage this season of .925, ninth best in the country. Ohio State forward Tanner Laczynski said the faith in their goalie is well-founded.
“He’s been there for us all year; he’s been consistent, constant,” Laczynski said. “We just know he’s going to play top notch every game. We know he’s going to come in focused.”
Life begins anew against Princeton for Ohio State, a No. 1 seed for the first time. Romeo said the preparation for the pending chaos will come well before he shuts off his phone.
“You see it every day in practice, these guys (teammates) are so skilled, they just kind of do whatever they want with the puck out there,” Romeo said. “So I may get abused sometimes, look a little stupid, but it helps. You kind of see everything through practice and it helps in the game.”