Though the Buckeyes are 2-5-0, including a 1-3-0-0 mark in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, they see reason to be positive. Six of the first seven games –including all four conference contests – have been on the road, and all five losses have been by a single goal.
"Te best part about it is I feel like we're right there," senior defenseman Chris Reed said. "At least we're not getting blown out. They're one-goal games. We just have to find a way to finish it off."
That the team is in such good spirits going into a two-game home set against Alabama-Huntsville on Friday and Saturday night in Value City Arena is good news to first-year head coach Mark Osiecki.
"I don't think they're down one bit," Osiecki said. "I think that we have to as a staff not let them get down or frustrated. It's been a tough start to the year. We've had one home game, and you're right there – you're one goal away."
The key task of this week's practices has been figuring out a way to make sure that goal ends up on the Ohio State side of the ledger. In four of the five losses, the Buckeyes have given up the deciding goal in the third period.
Osiecki said improving upon his team's mistakes should be easy.
"If they do a few more things that are simple team concepts, then all of a sudden it's going to put you over the hump," he said. "At least it shows that they're right there, now we have to eliminate some of the mistakes and maybe some of the fancy hockey that they're trying to play.
"You come watch us practice, we turn the puck over at the blue line, they're doing 15 pushups. Every single goal that we've given up right now, for the most part it's the result of us not taking care of the puck."
Wednesday's practice, which was one of the longer ones of the season, was a snapshot of those efforts, Reed said.
"A lot of battling around the net," he said. "A lot of work around the net, at least for the defense, not letting them get chances around the net. I think (a hard practice) was a good thing for us. We want to be going up and down the ice during the week so when it comes to the weekend we're doing the same thing the whole time."
Home Sweet Home
The Buckeyes will be back on home ice for only the second time this season. The first contest in Value City Arena was a 4-3 loss to Robert Morris on Oct. 15.
"It's nice to play in front of the home crowd, and hopefully we can get a couple of W's for them," senior forward and co-captain Peter Boyd said. "It's nice to be home."
Osiecki and team members have talked about how Ohio State's early-season trips have allowed the team to bond, but there has been a negative impact as well in the form of long bus rides and missed class time.
OSU did fly to the season-opening series against Quinnipiac before riding the bus the past two weeks. The trips to Ferris State, which is about six hours away, and Northern Michigan, which is 10, were among the longer bus trips the team takes each season.
The team didn't return home from the series with NMU until around 8 a.m. Sunday morning.
"It's definitely tough," Boyd said, "but I think the guys did an OK job of handling that."
Facts And Figures Ohio State has started junior Cal Heeter in net in all seven games. It is the longest stretch of consecutive starts in his career, besting four in a row he had last season. He has a goals-against average of 2.47 and a save percentage of .918. "When you're playing every weekend, you get a little more consistency, a little more of a run going," he said. "You definitely get in a groove and feel better playing back-to-back nights."
The Buckeyes have not taken senior goaltender Dustin Carlson, who led the team in starts the past two years, on any of the opening road trips. "We've asked him to work harder," Osiecki said.
Senior John Albert is tied for the team lead with eight points. He has three-point games in each of the team's two wins.
Ohio State has actually outscored its opposition 18-17.
Sergio Somma is tied for fourth in the CCHA with five goals.
Sophomore defenseman Devon Krogh leads the team with a plus-4 rating and has a 1-5-6 line.
The only Division I independent, Alabama-Huntsville comes into the series with a 1-6-1 record. The Chargers' win was against Ferris State and the tie was a 4-4 decision against Michigan State last Friday. The Chargers have lost two games to Wisconsin and Bowling Green and one apiece vs. Ferris State and MSU.