Osiecki, Hockey Buckeyes Stage Home Opener

Two games into his stint as Ohio State's men's hockey coach, Mark Osiecki sees positives and negatives in his team after an opening split a weekend ago. Now the Buckeyes look to keep climbing upward as they return home for the first time this year to take on Robert Morris in nonconference action Friday night.

Mark Osiecki isn't all that interested in milestones at the moment.

Last Friday, the new Ohio State men's hockey coach led the Buckeyes for the first time at Quinnipiac. A night later, he got his first win.

"I'm not a stats person at all," he told BSB afterward. "It's not who I am and it's not who I was as a player. To be honest with you, it's another game."

Tonight in Value City Arena, he'll coach his first home game as the Buckeyes take on nonconference foe Robert Morris at 7 p.m., but not much has changed from his post-QU mind-set. Rather than reflect on the special nature of the home lid-lifter, Osiecki is focused squarely on what his team needs to do to have a successful opener and improve to 2-1 on the season.

"I think it's (going to be about) our players trying to control their emotions, and how can they build that fire to make sure it's blazing the right way rather than throwing that that match out too early," he said. "That's going to be their challenge of their first game at home – how can they prepare themselves so when the puck is dropped, they're ready to go and be at their peak?"

It's all part of the ongoing process of installing a winning culture at Ohio State. After four losing seasons in the past five seasons, this veteran team is trying to find the ticket back to being a contender in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, which boasts five teams in the national top 20.

"We need our compete level to get to a level where it's maintaining to a consistent level," he said. "Until we get to that point, there's going to be some ups and downs just like we saw Friday and Saturday night."

Going on the road to start the season, the Buckeyes dropped their opening game of the year by a 2-1 count to the Bobcats, picked to finish near the bottom of the ECAC standings. A night later, behind three points from John Albert, Ohio State came back to post a 4-0 victory.

A newly preached defensive aggressiveness on the offensive end might have been one of the culprits behind the first game as the Buckeyes gave up 39 shots, 37 of which were turned away by goaltender Cal Heeter.

"I think the one thing we talked about is we need our forwards to move their feet and our defensemen to play defense first, and they responded to that on Saturday," Osiecki said.

Blue-liner Sean Duddy said that second message got taken to heart after the team gave up, in Osiecki's estimation, about 20 odd-man situations in the opener.

"I think myself included – especially, actually – kind of got in that mentality a little too much of getting up in the play," he said. "We have to work hard and get up, but you also have to be smart about it. He doesn't expect us to be forwards. We just had to get that mentality of making sure we're doing our jobs vs. just blindly going up the ice and trying to get involved with the offense.

"I think we tightened things up from Friday to Saturday."

That renewed emphasis on defense helped Heeter, a junior who finished with 69 saves on 71 shots to earn CCHA goaltender of the week honors for the second time in his career.

"It helps that Cal played really well," Duddy said. "When you have a goalie that's hot, it makes it a lot easier to play good defense when he's going to be back there to make the big save."

Albert and Sergio Somma, meanwhile, served as catalysts for the Buckeye offense. Somma scored in both games while Albert's three-point game in the final contest (one goal, two assists) was the fourth of his career and first since January.

"This summer I got after it, and I think I started off with a pretty good start here and just have to keep it going throughout the season," he said.

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