Osiecki Brings Intensity To OSU

Now that the news of Mark Osiecki's hiring to lead the Ohio State hockey team has sunk in throughout the college hockey world, it's time to start looking at what Buckeye fans can expect from the new head coach. According to many, Osiecki's presence, work ethic and intensity stick out among the qualities that made him an attractive candidate for OSU.

Ohio State and Wisconsin might be miles apart in college hockey's hierarchy, but a lot of familiarity brought the Buckeyes and new head coach Mark Osiecki together.

Take, for example, the fact that Osiecki formerly spent seven years as the head coach and general manager of the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, one of the top junior leagues that feeds into college hockey.

The Ohio State tie? Former Buckeye defenseman Nate Guenin and current forward Sergio Somma, who was part of the search committee that hired Osiecki, both played at Green Bay, Guenin doing so during Osiecki's tenure.

"I talked to Nate Guenin bit and I talked to some colleagues of his, and I heard nothing but good things about him," Somma told BSB about Osiecki. "He actually coached in Green Bay before I was there, and I know he had great teams that played for him then. I heard nothing but good things about him from billet families and people that worked throughout the organization."

Those ties helped the decision makers at Ohio State come to the conclusion that Osiecki was the right man for the job. As it turned out, he didn't need much recruiting, as the coach spent his last six years working as an assistant at his alma mater of Wisconsin and hearing about the Buckeye athletic department.

"The one thing that really stood out to me being at Wisconsin for six years, our athletic department talked nonstop about how things are run at Ohio State – how everybody communicated well with each other and it being a first-class organization," he said.

Those ties combined to make Osiecki only the third Buckeyes' coach in 35 years. Now the fun will begin.

Osiecki takes over a squad that has made only one NCAA tournament appearance during the past five years – a span in which Wisconsin made two national title games and won an NCAA championship under Osiecki's watch. This past year, a Buckeye team that started the year in the national rankings and was projected to finish in the top four of the CCHA finished below .500 and lost in the league quarterfinals.

The early sense is that Osiecki will try to shepherd the Buckeyes through an intense, honest, hard-nosed approach, Somma said.

"I think with all people, when you first meet them you get a feeling about them," he said. "I think he's real as a person, like who he was as a player. He was a blue-collar, stay-at-home defenseman. I think that's the type of person he is, from what I know. He's a demanding coach, and that's how he was as a player. He carries that over as a person but he still has that quiet confidence about him and is believable."

The hope is that style will help turn around a squad that projects to return six of its top nine scorers, its top two goaltenders and a total of 17 upperclassmen. Whether those returning players will be able to adapt quickly into Osiecki's style remains to be seen, but Peter Boyd, a senior-to-be who was also on the search committee, was confident they will be able to mesh.

"I think we can," Boyd said. "I think we have a mature senior class and a mature junior class. I think we have to get behind him right away if we want to see success. What we've done previously hasn't brought us that, so that's what we have to look forward to."

While everyone questioned said that it was too early to predict what style of play Osiecki would bring to Columbus, it would seem defense will be a forte. His Green Bay teams twice set the league record for fewest goals allowed, and Osiecki was in charge of Wisconsin's defensive corps the past six years, a span in which the Badgers finished among the top 25 in the nation every year in defense and in the top 10 three times.

One thing that is for sure is he hopes to bring the tenets learned at Wisconsin and head coach Mike Eaves with him to Columbus.

"I think I mentioned to a lot of the associate ADs and Gene Smith that I feel that being at Wisconsin here has been like getting my masters in hockey," Osiecki said. "Working for Mike Eaves (you learn) a lot of the little details of the game that are going to help guys out not only for our level at Ohio State but hopefully these guys have goals and want to play in the NHL. We want to get them there."

In addition to being known as a defensive coach, Osiecki has been mentioned as one of the best recruiters in the sport, not a surprise given his junior ties. While the goal in year one will be to turn the current Buckeye squad into a winner, the new head man knows that recruiting will be most important in the future.

"Just in pure hockey sense, I think recruiting (will be a strength)," Osiecki said. "We will recruit hard. That's one thing I learned at my first job with Dean Blais at North Dakota, recruiting is your lifeblood, and the best thing about that is I enjoy it. My wife doesn't like it so much, but I enjoy it. I really do. I like getting into the rink, I like being in a small-town setting, and whether it's in the United States or Canada, you're always going to know somebody.

"You have to have a really hard drive with recruiting, especially with hockey. It's so damn competitive trying to get kids to different programs, and you turn guys over so often that recruiting has to be a lifeline."

Bartkowski Leaves: Osiecki will begin his tenure without the Buckeyes' top defenseman back as sophomore Matt Bartkowski signed with the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

Bartkowski provided size and skill, which he matched with an occasionally nasty attitude at Ohio State. A two-way defenseman with great skating ability who was working to improve at all facets of the game, Bartkowski had an 11-27-38 line in 80 games at OSU. He completed his Buckeye career with 215 shots, 145 penalty minutes, a plus-10 rating and eight power-play goals.

He was originally chosen in the 2008 draft by the Florida Panthers, who traded him to Boston at this year's NHL trade deadline.

CCHA Changes Playoff Format: With the league dropping to 11 teams next year because of the departure of Nebraska-Omaha, the CCHA was forced to change its playoff format.

In a move approved Friday, the league announced that every team still will make the playoff systems with the top five teams earning byes. Teams six through 11 will play first-round three-game series with the three winners advancing to series against the five squads with byes.

From there, the four to emerge will travel to the league championship in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena for single-elimination finals.

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