Ohio State football. Ohio State basketball. Pitchers in the Cleveland Indians' farm system. Urban Meyer's preferred brand of toothpaste (Colgate, the one with the tartar control). The current whereabouts of Scoonie Penn and Andy Katzenmoyer.
These are just a few of the items that rank above men's ice hockey in the priorities of the average OSU sports fan. Yes, all of these are assuredly important things. But football season is over now (for better or for worse), the Tribe will inevitably stink again this year, and the basketball team, good as they are, is filled with guys who would seem more at home cuddling with you (hey Aaron, shotgun little spoon!) than having a beer with you. Fortunately, it's not too late to jump on the mid-season bandwagon of the Ohio State men's ice hockey team, a talented bunch of wildcards who party harder in one night than most men can in three.
Sixteen games have come and gone for the team so far this season, resulting in a record of 10-6. While that record might not look particularly impressive to fans suckled on the Buckeye football and basketball juggernauts, NCAA hockey has very little in common with its revenue sport big brothers. Consider:
1. Losses? Not so bad.
Collegiate hockey is played in a series format, with teams playing each opponent they face on back-to-back nights. The Buckeyes have only allowed two series sweeps this year, against current #12 Miami (OH) and then-#3 (now #7) Michigan. Both losses to TTUN were by a single goal, the second coming on an overtime gut punch.
Robert Morris, Niagara, Canisius, Mercyhurst. While this could also serve as a list of teams who somehow always end up as 15 seeds during March Madness, it describes every hockey team that the Bucks have swept this season. OSU notched 38 goals in those series while allowing just 14. The boys in the scarlet sweaters have also notched a win apiece against Bowling Green and then-#20 Minnesota-Duluth.
3. The Rankings.
At 10-6, the Buckeyes have a better winning percentage than 9 of the top-20 ranked teams (albeit having played a handful fewer games than some). They also have more wins outright than the 10th, 12th, 15th, and 19th-ranked teams (Yale, Miami, Cornell, and Nebraska-Omaha). In the last published rankings, the Buckeyes received twelve ranking votes--not enough to vault them into the standings, but solid proof that the quality and margin of their victories is being recognized nationally.
Names to Know
The Buckeyes are led by junior forward Ryan Dzingel, an Illinois native and Ottawa Senators draftee. Dzingel has notched 10 goals and 13 assists in his sixteen games this year. He was named one of the B1G's "Three Stars of the Week" for 12/24-12/31 following a five-point performance in the Mercyhurst series. Dzingel leads all B1G players in points at the halfway mark, and is currently on a 9-game point streak.
The Senators clearly have an eye on Buckeye scorers, as they also drafted forward Max McCormick in 2011 a round earlier than Dzingel, the only teammate he trails in goals this season. McCormick, a junior from De Pere, Wisconsin, has tallied 7 goals and 11 assists so far, good for the second-most points on the team.
Ohio State has started four different goalies this season, with the bulk of the work going to freshman netminder Matt Tomkins. Tomkins has posted a .910 save percentage, stopping 222 shots in 8 starts and 1 relief appearance. The Chicago Blackhawks draftee has a 5-3 record and has 2.76 GAA. Upper Arlington native and fellow freshman Logan Davis is 3-2 in the net, with a .909 save percentage and 2.10 GAA.
Why You Should Care
We can all agree that we hate Michigan State, regardless of sport. Guess who arrives in Columbus on Friday (1/10) for a weekend series with the Buckeyes? Sparty is just 6-9-2 on the year, and is 0-5-0 on the road--a good omen for the Buckeyes heading into the series at Nationwide. Underdog they may be, but beating them (days after the basketball team almost, almost did the same) would still feel pretty good...not that I'm bitter.
This is the first season that the B1G has operated as a hockey conference, and as such you have ample opportunity to ratchet up your hatred towards conference foes. Following this weekend's home tilt against Sparty, the Buckeyes face off against #1 Minnesota, and also have series remaining against Wisconsin, Penn State, MSU (again), and Michigan. If you need a reason to hate any of those teams other than strict principle, allow me to show you the door. You are an Ohio State Buckeye fan, and if that means loathing a fellow B1G school's all-girl cheer squad, you do it. Fortunately, this is hockey, and the country's most fight-friendly major sport gladly welcomes your bad blood.
The OSU hockey team deserves your support. Whether you're first in line for tickets at the Schott, or wrapped safely in a blanket at home pounding refresh on the @OSUKnucklebucks twitter feed, do what you can this weekend to show our boys some love. The legs may feed the wolf, but the crowd feeds the team. Make yourself a part of it. Go Bucks.