Icers, Others Red-Hot As Christmas Approaches

Temperatures are cooling down in Columbus, but interest in Ohio State athletics is hotter than ever given the Urban Meyer hire and the unbeaten basketball teams. But in addition to that, men's hockey is in the top five, wrestling isn't far behind and women's volleyball is in the Sweet 16. The icers are even home tonight with their nine-game win streak on the line.

For the last 11 games, no team has been able to beat the No. 4 Ohio State men's hockey team.

Now, finals week will give it a try.

The Buckeyes will take on rival Miami this weekend – Friday in Value City Arena and Saturday in Oxford – having finished fall quarter work the past few days. For many, especially the team's 12 rookies, that meant hockey practice time was a welcome break from a stressful week.

"There's a lot going on," co-captain Cory Schneider said. "There's a break coming up too so it's pretty easy to lose focus. As older guys we've been trying to tell everybody to stay focused, take care of your stuff. When you come to the rink it's actually a break from the studying and the exams. It's a good mental break to get your mind off of it."

For those like Schneider and senior goaltender Cal Heeter, the week is a chance to act like a professional player, as neither had any finals during the week.

Either way, the Buckeyes will hope the focus stays on Miami, OSU's opponent before the holiday break hits. And in case any minds start to wander either to finals or the break, the rivalry between the two Ohio squads should serve to refocus.

"I think that certainly helps," head coach Mark Osiecki said. "I think being at home Friday helps as well. Sometimes it can be hard to keep them focused because they're, I don't want to say looking forward to the break, but it's there. It's on the horizon looming, so it's nice it's Miami and it's a home and home where you have the ability to grab them."

Ohio State swept the seventh-ranked RedHawks a season ago on the way to winning the Ohio Cup, BSB's annual intrastate trophy given to the team with the best record in Buckeye State play.

This year, the RedHawks enter on the heels of being swept at Northern Michigan, and the team is 8-8-2 on the year, eighth in the CCHA and unranked after a run of recent success that included a spot in the 2009 national championship game.

"With rivalry games, you really throw rankings out the window," Schneider said. "Look at last year. They came in here ranked pretty high and we were able to take two from them. They're a great program. We know they're going to bring our best and we're going to bring our best. It's going to be a great weekend."

Ohio State has won nine in a row and is unbeaten in 11 to reach the top of the CCHA charts, not to mention first-place standings in the NCAA PairWise rankings and the RPI while going 7-1 against ranked teams. The Buckeyes have done it in every way possible, as the team is 14th in the nation in scoring, fifth in defense, sixth in combined special teams and fourth in scoring margin at plus-1.38 goals per game.

Now the hope is to keep the run going against what most OSU hockey observers would agree is the team's biggest rival.

"I'd say it's Miami because it's in-state," co-captain Sean Duddy said. "People on campus know Miami (Ohio). It's that in-state rivalry where there's more on the line, reputation-wise. They've always been a really good team. We've always wanted to bring our best against them and they always seem to bring their best against us."

Volleyball To Sweet 16
The men's hockey squad isn't the only one with a big matchup this weekend as the women's volleyball team takes on No. 3 Illinois in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

The Buckeyes upset No. 14 Tennessee last weekend by a 3-2 score to advance, as the team won the last three points of the deciding fifth set to claim victory.

"We stuck with it, and that's how we won it," said junior Mari Hole, who led the team with 23 points. "I would say that has become one of our things. We have been playing behind in multiple games. In many of the cases we've been able to catch up again. We're never a team that you can forget about."

The appearance in the final 16 is Ohio State's second in a row, and the Buckeyes will have a handful against the Fighting Illini. Illinois captured both contests between the two teams in the regular season, winning 3-0 in Columbus and 3-1 in Champaign.

"I think the whole team, they appreciate this moment, but I also know they feel like they can win," head coach Geoff Carlston said. "I don't think there's a hesitation from anyone that we're in this moment now and we're here to win it and we're going to do everything we can to win it."

Emily Danks added 22.5 points for OSU against the Lady Vols, while Mariah Booth had 10 blocks and the match-winning kill.

The Illinois match from Gainesville, Fla., will start at 5 p.m. on ESPN3.

Grapplers Face Two
A year ago, nothing went according to plan for the Ohio State wrestling team.

This year, the ideal script has been followed almost perfectly for the No. 6 Buckeyes. Ohio State is undefeated in the dual season and last week won the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, besting second-place Michigan.

Ohio State's best performances came from the young Stieber brothers of Monroeville, Ohio. Redshirt freshman Logan Stieber, ranked fifth in the nation, pinned his first three opponents on the way to winning the 133-pound title, while freshman Hunter Stieber beat No. 1 Kellen Russell of Michigan at 141 before taking second place.

In addition, heavyweight Peter Capone beat three ranked foes on the way to taking second place, while fourth-ranked Nick Heflin finished third at 174 pounds, true freshman Johnni Dijulius placed fourth at 125 and C.J. Magrum was fifth at 184.

This weekend, OSU travels to take on No. 9 Pittsburgh tonight before going to northeastern Ohio to battle No. 20 Kent State on Sunday.

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