Ohio State travels to Green Bay, Wis., where it will tackle No. 4-ranked Wisconsin in the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic at historic Lambeau Field. The game, set for a 4 p.m. Eastern start, will be held outdoors on a portable rink stationed on the home field of the NFL's Green Bay Packers.
This marks the second time college hockey teams have taken their game outdoors in recent years. On Oct. 6, 2001, CCHA rivals Michigan and Michigan State skated to a 3-3 tie before a crowd of 74,554 at MSU's Spartan Stadium. That crowd figure stands as the largest to ever see a live hockey game anywhere in the world, breaking a 41-year-old record.
A crowd in the neighborhood of 40,000 is expected for this game. The weather forecast calls for a high of 27 degrees in the afternoon with a chance of snow flurries.
The Buckeyes will enter the game at 14-13-4 overall after a tough 4-3 home loss to CCHA rival Michigan State on Thursday night. That loss left OSU, with a 10-11-2 conference mark, in a tie for sixth with 22 points on the year.
That is a far cry from the preseason, when Ohio State was picked as the top choice in the conference by the league's coaches and the Buckeyes were ranked as high as No. 2 nationally after splitting a season-opening road trip to Colorado College.
After this game, the Buckeyes will have five more CCHA games to wrap up the year before moving into postseason play. OSU coach John Markell knows his team needs to reverse its fortunes and would like to see it start with this game.
"This is only the second time this has happened outdoors," Markell said. "It's different. It's the chance of a lifetime to play in a stadium like that. Hopefully, we can create some good memories.
"It is important for us and I expect us to go up there and compete hard."
Markell said his team will have to prepare for the elements.
"We know it will be around 20 degrees with gusting winds and a chance of snow," he said. "The guys who are playing will stay warm. The benches will be heated and it will be very important to stay warm. The players won't wear much more than they would wear here. But it is a big dilemma. You almost don't know what to pack."
The Green Bay Packers are backing the game. Wisconsin was a natural host team. Markell discussed how Ohio State got into the mix.
"They called Bruce McCloud, who the commissioner of the WCHA," Markell said. "He suggested another Big Ten school. I think they were talking about Minnesota, but they couldn't do it. They were talking about Michigan Tech and Notre Dame, but they couldn't do it.
"They called us and luckily Michigan State moved their series to a week day. It gave everybody a reason to do it. Exposure, for us, was why we took the game. The publicity we get will put us on the national scene. We had hoped they would be talking about our record, but it doesn't mean we can't be in a better position come Saturday."
Markell was asked if he would ever like to see the Buckeyes host an outdoor game at Ohio Stadium.
"It would be up to the administration," he said. "I think we could draw a pretty good crowd here against Michigan. Should we use that to our advantage? Maybe we should. Michigan and Michigan State is a big rivalry, but Ohio State and Michigan is a huge rivalry. Maybe that is something we would suggest to Gene (Smith) in the future to try and get going.
"The only problem is whether the field could stand it."
But the coach also understands this is an enormous undertaking.
"If you did it too much, the novelty would wear off," he said. "And, obviously, for the host organization, which here is the Green Bay Packers, they have to generate a lot of money to be able to pull it off. They had the financial means to be able to advertise and make guarantees to the schools before selling any tickets."
Parking lots will open at 9 a.m., Saturday for fans wishing to tailgate for the game. At 1 p.m., the Badgers and Buckeyes are expected to arrive at Lambeau by police escort and begin final preparations for the 3 p.m. contest. The game will be televised live on FSN North, FSN Ohio, Fox College Sports and on Leafs TV in Canada.
Tickets remain available for the game, with prices as follows for the stadium bowl: $24 for adults, $16 for students (including college) and $14 for children (under 12). Indoor and outdoor club seats are sold out.
Tickets will be available for purchase only at the Packers' ticket office. Fans can purchase tickets in person from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Over-the-phone orders can be transacted by calling (920) 569-7501.
Sophomore forward Tom Fritsche leads OSU with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists). Junior forward Andrew Schembri (nine goals and nine assists) and sophomore forward Domenic Maiani (five goals, 13 assists) each have 18 points.
Senior goaltender Dave Caruso boasts a sparkling 1.87 goals against average.
But the Buckeyes have been shut out four times this year and have dropped seven one-goal games.
Wisconsin comes into the game at 19-7-2 and 14-6-2 in WCHA play. The Badgers have lost five of their last six games.
OSU's Remaining Games
The Buckeyes will visit CCHA-leading Miami (Ohio) Tuesday, then host Ferris State next Friday and Saturday. They will then wrap regular season play at Northern Michigan Feb. 24-25.
CCHA first-round tournament play will begin March 3-5 with a best-of-3 series. The top four seeds will then host best-of-3 series March 10-12. The CCHA semifinals and finals will be March 17-18 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.