Hockey Preview: The Ohio State Buckeyes

USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State comes to East Lansing with a 1 point lead in the B1G Standings

This weekend the Spartan hockey team welcomes The Ohio State Buckeyes to Munn Arena for a key B1G series. These two teams last met in January with the Buckeyes earning 4 out of a possible 6 points. Friday night's contest was a 5-3 game with Buckeye Ryan Dzingel registering a hat trick. The Spartans rebounded Saturday night to win in a shootout at Value City Arena in Columbus.

The Spartans last weekend played on the road at Minnesota earning a shootout victory and one goal loss against the top ranked team in the country. Once again Jake Hildebrand played out of his mind and the offense continued to struggle. The Spartans are now in the bottom third in the country both in goals per game and power play percentage. If it wasn't for Hildebrand and the 15th ranked defense in the country, the Spartans would be much farther back of the 4th place Buckeyes than they are now. One point separates the two teams that match up this weekend and with 6 points on the line, a Spartan sweep could be huge in gaining ground on the standings the rest of the way.

The Ohio State Buckeyes 14-9-1 (4-5-1 B1G)

Time/TV: 6:30 Friday on BTN, 4:00 Saturday on Fox Sports Detroit +

Ohio State Men's Hockey: Coach Rohlik Previews Michigan State Series (via OSU Buckeyes)


The Buckeyes come to East Lansing riding a three game winning streak. After splitting a series against 3rd place Wisconsin, the Buckeyes beat Penn State 5-1, 5-2 last weekend. The Buckeyes two leading scorers, Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick each scored three goals last weekend against the Nittany Lions. In fact Dzingel now has as many goals (17) as the Spartans leading scorer Greg Wolfe has points. Christian Frey has been in net the past three wins for the Buckeyes. Frey who left his junior A team mid-season to join the Buckeyes, who were in need of a goaltender, made 70 saves on 73 shots last weekend and has posted a 5-1 record since joining the team. When the Spartans played the Buckeyes in January they didn't see Frey,as fellow freshman Matt Tomkins played in both games.

After losing to Wisconsin on January 24th and surrendering five goals the Buckeyes have rode the hot hand with Frey in net. So the decision this weekend for Buckeye coach Steve Rohlik will be interesting, does he leave Frey in net or go with Tomkins who had good success against the Spartans last time?

Ohio State Buckeyes Stats Match-up Michigan State Spartans
3.62 (4th in nation) Goals Per Game 2.20 (50th in nation)
2.71 (27th in nation) Goals Against/Game 2.36 (15th in nation)
22.73% (7th) Power Play % 13.59% (49)
81.3% (34) Penalty Kill % 81.4% (32)
Ryan Dzingel 17 G, 36 Pts. Leading Scorer Greg Wolfe 8 G, 17 pts

3 Keys For MSU Success

  1. Tame Ryan Dzingel- This is much easier said than done. Dzingel absolutely torched the Spartans last time they played and is one of the few top scorers to have success against Hildebrand. It has been noted throughout the season in my posts how the magic number for the Spartans has been 3 goals. The only loss for this team when scoring 3 goals is the 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes, and much of that credit goes to Dzingel. If the Spartans can hold Dzingel to 0-1 goals on the weekend then there is a good chance the Spartans are happy with the results.
  2. Net Traffic- This had been an area that has improved greatly the last two weekends. The Spartans score most of their goals through net scrambles and going to the "dirty" areas. Playing against freshman goaltenders this could be key this weekend. If you can get under their skin and distract them they could give up key goals. This is something that players like freshman Joe Cox and senior Lee Reimer have been great at and they could be impact players this weekend.
  3. 2nd Line- The Ferrantino, Cox and Berry line has been fantastic since the GLI. They have been doing the majority of scoring and will be the key to victory this weekend. This line most likely will be the Spartans best answer to the high end scoring ability of Dzingel and MacCormick. Also look for this unit to be featured prominently on the power play that was held scoreless last weekend at Minnesota.

Analysis

Just like the last time the Spartans played the Buckeyes this is a benchmark time for Tom Anastos. This begins a 4 game stretch against Ohio State and Penn State, meaning its the bottom half of the B1G playing it out. The Spartans are a much better team at home so I expect a better series than what happened in January. Dzingel and the Buckeyes offense are just too talented for me to feel confident in a series sweep. I'll say what is most likely is an Ohio State win Friday, followed by a scrappy tough win by the Spartans Saturday,

Around The B1G
All 6 teams in the B1G are playing conference series this weekend. League leader Minnesota will play a Thursday-Friday set of games at #3 Wisconsin (Wisconsin won Thursday 2-1). #2 Michigan will be on the road playing at last place Penn State who is still looking to get their first points in B1G play.
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