Currently sitting at 3-3 (2-2 in the CCHA), the Buckeyes have battled to splits with 3 formidable opponents in Quinnipiac, Michigan State, and pre-season favorites in Notre Dame. Although their scoring has been on par with Alaska at 16 goals in 6 games, their defense has suffered, allowing 18 pucks into back of their own net, versus the 14 that Alaska has allowed. And when you take into account the 8 goals that has been allowed in 2 games between St. Cloud and Western Michigan, that puts things into a clearer perspective.
tOSU is backstopped by returning goaltender Cal Heeter, who is primed and ready for his senior season in Columbus. Yes, the same Cal Heeter that was pulled in the second game against the Buckeyes last season in Fairbanks after the Nanooks peppered him with 28 shots and 5 goals in less than 2 periods. He seems to be a bit more solid this season, with the exception of his first stint in net against the Bobcats who allowed 3 goals on 4 shots in the first period before being involuntarily relocated from between the pipes to between the bench doors. Consistency for Heeter will not only be a key to Ohio State for this series, but also for the rest of the season. If my memory serves correctly, he has a bit of a wild glove and was pretty vulnerable on that side, especially up high. But if Heeter can step up his game, this will be an exciting series. Hopefully, the Nanooks can find some weak spots and put up some more numbers and come back with 6 points.
The interesting stat coming into this week has been the chemistry between the Yaremchuk, Finucci, and Kunyk line. These guys have put up some good numbers together and are emerging as some more scoring depth, helping out the Beck-Granberg-Taranto line that have succeeded, but have been clearly targeted by additional defensive pressure from opponents. Yaremchuk, the teams leading scorer has 6 points off of 5 goals, 3 of which have been game winners, which is tied for the most in all of NCAA Division I. The Nanooks have also been boosted with 9 different goal scorers so far this season, including 2 freshmen in Garrick Perry and Nolan Youngmun who have each tallied their first collegiate goals.
With the numbers behind it, and the recent history of this series I'm excited to see how these guys respond. I know the guys are focused on trying to bring home 6 points before meeting Miami next week at home. And with Ohio State sitting up high in the conference standings, its early enough that the Nanooks can pull the floor out from under them and make them fall a few stories. Every point in the conference is precious, and 6 points this weekend goes a long way. And with CCHA leaders Lake State and Ferris State playing hypermotivated teams like Miami and Michigan, who are also coming off of disappointing opening weekends, this weekend will be a run for the upper hand in the standings.