Buckeyes Need Offense Coming Down Stretch

The Ohio State hockey team has four games left in the regular season and needs to make up ground in the CCHA standings. The quickest way to do so is to rediscover the scoring touch. OSU has lost six of seven, averaging 1.0 goals per game in the losses, and hopes Senior Weekend will do the trick as the Buckeyes host Lake Superior State.

There will be plenty of entertainment on the docket as the Ohio State hockey team hosts Lake Superior State this weekend in a series with huge playoff implications.

Script Ohio will be performed on the ice during the first intermission of the Friday night game in Value City Arena, and Saturday night will serve as Senior Night for nine members of the Buckeye squad.

What cannot be guaranteed, however, are goals from the home team. The Buckeyes have scored only 10 in the last seven games, going 1-6 in that span while falling all the way to ninth in the 11-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Though head coach Mark Osiecki has lauded his team's defensive play, there's little doubting the Buckeyes need to put a few more pucks in the net to move up in the standings.

"Our next step is to try to find a way to get to the back of the net and try to find a way to get to the front of the net," Osiecki said. "If we do those things combined with how we've been playing, good things will happen."

In that seven-game span, the top line of seniors Sergio Somma, John Albert and Peter Boyd has been the main bright spot offensively. Somma leads the team with 16 tallies, while Albert tops the chart with 21 assists and Boyd is tied for third with 24 points.

Those three – who are also on the team's top power-play line – have combined for five goals over the last seven games, leaving the rest of the forward group with four goals in that span.

"I think they have to follow the example led by Sergio, Peter Boyd and Johnny," Osiecki said. "Certainly, we need some secondary scoring."

There have been some notable goal-less streaks hurting the offense. Danny Dries – who sits second on the team with 13 goals – is without a goal in seven games. He has also spent time lining up as a defenseman because of injuries and was held out of one game because of a violation of team rules, and Osiecki said the off-the-ice problems might have affected Dries' game.

In addition, senior center C.J. Severyn has only two goals in 12 games and is without an assist since Nov. 6. Alex Szczechura leads the team's freshmen with seven goals but only one has come in 2011. Senior winger Kyle Reed averaged more than seven goals in each of his first three seasons but is without a single tally this season.

"It's crazy," Reed said. "I think about it from time to time, obviously. It happens to the best of them. You talk to guys throughout their careers, whatever sport, you know there's slumps and the monkey on your back or however you want to put it. Sometimes it's just not there for you, but you can't dwell on it and be negative.

"You can get better in other areas of the game, and I feel like I've gotten better at the other areas of the game that I wasn't necessarily good at when I came here."

Ohio State also has only one goal from a defenseman in the new year, coming when Sims scored the lone tally of a Jan. 22 loss vs. Notre Dame. The senior has two markers on the year to lead the blue liners.

The Buckeyes are still fifth in the CCHA in scoring with 2.71 goals per game for the entire season, but this isn't the most purely talented of squads. In order to get the offense going down the stretch, Osiecki said the Buckeyes have to grind it out and get to the front of the net.

"You gotta have great will," Osiecki said. "You have to have a relentless part of your game that you're going to go to those dirty areas, the scoring areas. You have to have a tremendous will and work habits."

Needing Points
Ohio State enters the series four points behind the sixth-place tie of Lake Superior State, Alaska and Northern Michigan with four games to go.

Places six through eight – currently occupied by those teams – in the CCHA standings at the end of the year will host first-round playoff series, meaning the Buckeyes will need to make up some ground to stay in Columbus for the opening weekend of the postseason.

There are some ways for OSU to make up the points, starting with the two-game set against the Lakers. Ohio State also has two games in hand on Alaska, which finishes league play this weekend hosting 10th-place Michigan State.

The good news, even through the recent losing streak, is that Ohio State has been playing good hockey in the eyes of Osiecki.

"It's been three Fridays in a row here where you give up less than nine scoring chances in all three of those games," he said, referencing a 1-0 loss to Alaska, a 2-0 loss to Michigan State and a 3-2 loss at Michigan. "That's the hard thing. We just don't have right now either that puck luck or we don't have that puck skill, one of the two, but the guys are doing everything you ask. Three Fridays in a row – you're going into Michigan and giving up nine scoring chances, you're doing something right."

One benefit should be the return to Value City Arena. The Buckeyes are 7-4-0 in the on-campus venue, including a 4-2 mark against the top three teams in the league.

"That's what we're excited about," Osiecki said. "Our players are excited to come back in front of the crowds here. It's certainly given them a boost. I think our fans have been outstanding, something that we can build on."

Speaking from a player perspective, junior Cory Schneider – who has two goals in three games – said the Buckeyes know what is at stake.

"It's that time of year," he said. "Four games left, playoffs coming up. We're coming back home for four games, which is big. We've been good at home this year. We definitely need to pick up points these last four games and set ourselves up to make a run at the playoffs."

Seniors Honored
Though Ohio State will finish the season at home Feb. 24-25 vs. fifth-place Ferris State, the Buckeyes are celebrating senior weekend this time around because the Friday-Saturday setup allows more of the players' families to be in town.

"I remember when I was stepping on the ice as a freshman and I was nervous," Severyn said. "Now we have four games left in the season. It's hard to believe. It's crunch time. These last four games could mean life or death for us."

The nine-member senior class of Albert, Boyd, goaltender Dustin Carlson, defenseman Chris Reed, Kyle Reed, Severyn, Sims, Somma and defenseman Corey Toy will be honored in a pregame ceremony Saturday. All of the parents in town for the series will be recognized Friday during the second intermission.

"It's crazy how you go through these four years and you hear other seniors saying it goes by fast," Kyle Reed said. "You don't really think about it, but it's true. It goes by fast. It's a long time but it does go by fast. Sometimes things are a real blur. It's crazy to believe (it's almost over)."

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