Hot Start Aside, Markell Preaches Even Keel

Being able to move past the last game, whether it be a success or failure, is the mark of a mature team. The Ohio State men's hockey team, with more than a dozen freshmen, will find out quickly if it is that type of team. The Buckeyes started 2-0 last weekend, but tonight's home opener against No. 2 Miami and an upcoming test at No. 3 Minnesota will test OSU's mettle.

At the start of any season, there are significant mileposts that must be passed. There's the first game of the season, the home opener, the first conference tilt and the first challenge against a ranked foe, among others, that a team encounters on its journey of a season.

Sometimes, those mile markers combine, throwing a ton of new experiences into the face of a team at one time. The road becomes even more daunting for a young team just learning to find its way, and that's the situation in which the Ohio State men's hockey team finds itself.

Not only do the Buckeyes have 14 freshmen currently on the active roster, 10 of which played during the opening weekend last Friday and Saturday, they've been given quite the arduous uphill climb to start the season.

The good news is the Buckeyes responded well in the season-opening Lefty McFadden Invitational last weekend in suburban Dayton. OSU opened the season with a sloppy 2-1 win over Mercyhurst, then came back a night later to defeat No. 15 Wisconsin 5-3. Now head coach John Markell has to keep his young Buckeyes, who moved up to No. 12 in the poll, from letting the success go to their heads.

"You have to watch what happens to how the players respond to the press, that they don't get too high or too low," Markell said. "Your first two wins of the season, they mean something. It means you're on the right path, but you're going to get tested every week. Our tests are going to get more and more stern here in the first couple weeks."

That is certainly true. Ohio State hits a few more checkpoints tonight when they open the home slate and Central Collegiate Hockey Association play against one of the squad's bitter rivals, No. 2 Miami, at 7 p.m. at Value City Arena. Sunday will bring a return trip to Oxford to face the RedHawks at 6 p.m., then next weekend involves a trip to No. 3 Minnesota for two games Thursday and Friday.

If Markell has been pleased with how his team has handled success thus far, he's probably at some point over the next four games going to find out how they handle adversity.

So far, the seniors are talking the right game.

"Our big thing is banking wins and losses," said winger Tommy Goebel, who scored OSU's first goal of the year. "We just want to get our systems down and everybody on the same page as far as that goes, worry about that stuff first and take the wins and losses as it goes right now.

"Playing teams like we're going to be playing here these next few weekends and like we did last weekend, we really just need to get together and get on the same page before we worry about the score and stuff like that."

The RedHawks will be quite the test for Ohio State. Miami is experienced at every position, especially at a deep forward spot that boasts two of the best forwards in the CCHA in senior Ryan Jones and classmate Nathan Davis, although the latter missed Miami's last game against Vermont because of injury. Junior Justin Mercier and Jarod Palmer, a sophomore who excelled against OSU last season, are rising stars.

Miami also boasts a deep and talented defensive group that can contribute on the scoresheet. Battling the RedHawks experience, which comes in stark contrast to that of a talented but young Wisconsin squad, will be key.

"The guys are going to get a taste of what it takes to play CCHA in-state rivals, a very good hockey club that is older," Markell said. "Wisconsin is a good hockey club, but they're a bit younger. This team that we're playing is an older team and it's going to be like playoff hockey here this weekend already."

How the Buckeyes do against the RedHawks will be of a measuring stick as to how the youngsters can handle the intensity of big games. Freshman winger Patrick Schafer made is sound as though the kids, so far, are all right.

"I'm not sure it's overwhelming," Schafer said. "We just go to play. You can't control who you play or how good they are. You can only control your destiny, so if you come out to play every night you should be OK."

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