In the Ice Breaker Tournament in Toledo last weekend, the No. 12-ranked Ohio State men’s hockey team started slow in both outings.
The squad had an early lead vs. No. 14 Western Michigan Friday, but the Broncos took over from there, eventually outshooting the Buckeyes 21-8 in the first period and using the momentum for a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Saturday vs. RIT, Ohio State was down 1-0 after the first 20 minutes.
Both nights, the Buckeyes were able to get the game turned around, en route to winning the tournament title. Against the Broncos, senior Matt Miller scored on the power play with five minutes left in regulation to tie the game and Ohio State eventually won a shootout to advance to the final. Against the Tigers, senior Ronnie Hein tallied two power play goals to tie the game and put the Buckeyes on top in an eventual 3-1 win. The trophy was the Buckeyes’ first in the Ice Breaker.
“I learned we have good leadership. You saw that from our seniors and our captains,” Steve Rohlik, head coach of the Buckeyes, said of what he learned from the season-opening tournament. “We were kind of resilient.”
Rohlik was impressed by the way the leaders took control in the game.
“I think it’s the response when things don’t go great. It’s easy when things are going well in practice or you’re winning hockey games. It’s easy to coach and easy to be leaders. The true test of a leader is when things don’t as planned. I don’t think things went as planned in the first period vs WMU and again in the first period the next night. Our leaders are the ones who said this is the direction we need to go. That’s really what you look for in good leadership.”
The Buckeye leadership group this year includes captain Hein and alternate captains Tanner Lacyznski, Gordi Myer and Austin Pooley. Hein, Laczynski and Myer are seniors, with Pooley a junior. Wyatt Ege, Miguel Fidler, Sam McCormick, Carson Meyer and Miller round out the senior class. Ege (2a), Fidler (1g), Laczynski (1a) and Miller (1g, 2a) were all on the scoresheet in the Ice Breaker Tournament.
“Their communication, what they’re doing on the ice, what they’re doing in the room [is important],” Rohlik said. “Leadership isn’t always about saying things all the time, it’s about doing things, and to me that’s the most important thing. You can talk about it all you want, but you have to go out and do it.”
Hein helped lead the Buckeye comeback vs. RIT with two goals.
“It’s not just about scoring goals or getting points,” he said of being a captain. “It’s my job to help the team in any way possible. That night, it happened to be two goals to kind of get us going and get everyone else rolling.”
Trailing in the tournament games was an early test for the Buckeyes, Hein said.
“We have a good group of guys in the room and everybody stayed really positive. We are going to face a lot more adversity throughout the year. It’s kind of good to face it now in the beginning and see what your team is like and its character and personality. We did a good job of fighting back and the captains did a good job of rallying them.”
Adding a letter to a jersey comes with new responsibilities.
“You have to speak up a little bit more in the room,” Hein said. “It’s not just leading on ice, you have to do a little more talking and motivate guys and keep them on track. It’s a long season – your job is to keep everybody on the same path and same goal and keep moving forward.”
In all, seniors scored four of the five goals and recorded 10 of the 14 points posted by the Buckeyes on their way to the tournament title. The senior class is looking to become the first in program history to reach the NCAA Tournament each of its four years.
This weekend, the Buckeyes open their home schedule with two games vs. Omaha. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday in Value City Arena.