Know Thine Enemy, Weather Ohio State

GopherSports.com

All Hail the Outdoor Hockey. Outdoor Hockey is Best Hockey.

Confession time: I do not know much about Ohio State hockey. Let's go on a learning adventure together. I sought information from LGHL to find a place to start. I was shocked at what I read. Ohio State fans have such disregard for their hockey team that Mr. McKeever needed to tell them that it can’t be football mania all year round, just to get them to pay attention the hockey team. In the week or so since he posted his article, Buckeye fans have posted zero comments of support.


I am reminded, on this occasion, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. Now, we must all fear evil fans trolling our comments section. But there is another kind evil that we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good fans. I expected hockey to be third fiddle at OSU, but I can’t believe there is not one fan there that cares to comment!

Shame on you, Ohio State. Hockey is A#1.

The Opponents

Minnesota

Ohio State

Conference Record

5-0-1

1-2-1

Overall Record

15-2-3

11-6-1

KRACH (USCHO)

1 of 59

24 of 59

KRACH SOS (USCHO)

8 of 59

47 of 59

Pairwise Power (USCHO)

1 of 59 (58 PWR)

29 of 59 (30 PWR)

The Buckeyes have earned a respectable 11-6-1 record so far this year. The problem with that record is that it was earned against poor competition. Ohio State’s KRACH strength of schedule is 47th of 59 teams because the schedule is full of teams like Niagara, Canisius, Robert Morris, and Mercyhurst. Against those four teams, the Buckeyes have a record of 8-0. None of those four teams is above 40th in KRACH.

Against the better teams on their schedule (Miami, Bowling Green, Michigan, Michigan State), the Buckeyes managed to win only three games. Excuse me if I’m not overly impressed by the resume’.

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The Players

The Buckeyes are led by their junior class, which features four of the top five scorers on the team. Ryan Dzingel leads the team with 13 goals and 14 assists (that’s 27 points), an impressive 1.5 points per game. Next up is Max McCormick with 20 points. Senior Alex Szczechura (that name is pronounced like this: Al-ex) is third on the team with 19 points.

As a team, OSU features some decent scoring depth. They have seven players with ten or more points. This number might be a bit deceiving, as the OSU offense feasted against Mercyhurst, Niagara, and Robert Morris.

The Buckeyes have had a crazy season in the area of goaltending. They have had four goalies make at least two appearances. Injury has been part of the problem, but sophomore goaltender Collin Olson also left the team in early November. That left the OSU staff to literally search the campus for an eligible player with goaltending experience. They picked up the catcher off the Buckeye baseball team to add an in-case-of-ANOTHER-meteor presence on the bench.

Freshman Matt Tomkins has seen the lion’s share of play, though he hasn’t been immune from the injury bug. He has a respectable 6-3-1 record, .915 SV%, and allows a respectable 2.59 goals against. If I was a betting man, he’s the starter for both games this weekend. As a reminder, I was 100% wrong on my goaltender prediction last week, player and results.

Prediction Time

Stats!

Minnesota

Ohio State

Advantage

Goals For / Game

3.95

3.83

Push

Goals Against / Game

2.10

2.83

Minnesota

Shots / Game

37.0

35.3

Push

Shots Allowed / Game

28.4

29.5

Push

KRACH SOS

8th

47th

Minnesota

This could turn out to be a much more competitive series than I expected when I started writing this up. The biggest reason is that I have no clue what will happen on in tonight’s game. You can read my screed below on why this outdoor game is a bad idea.

The stats in the table above don’t heavily favor the Gophers. The big difference between the two teams is that the Gophers play better team defense than the Buckeyes. If that holds true, and Adam Wilcox shows up in his usual Wallcox form, the Gophers could sweep this series.

The second factor in this game is that the Buckeyes good offensive stats are the result of their poor, poor schedule. If I’m right about that, the Gophers should sweep this series.

I see tonight as a coin toss, so I have to call this series a split. I think the Gophers would take more than three points in a normal series between these two teams. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I have to go with the dark, dark, ominous feeling in my gut.

Thoughts on Outdoor Hockey and This Year’s Hockey City Classic

Outdoor hockey is fun, or at least it was fun until everyone started doing it. We’ve officially taken the novelty house of cards and burned it to the ground. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this nowadays, so I’ll try to come up with some new points against.

Point Against #1: I love hockey. What you'll see at the Bank is not going to be college hockey at it's highest level.

Surprise, hockey is played on a very specialized surface! Those surface conditions play a huge part in a game. Variances in ice temperature change the way the puck moves and the ability to skate. Some teams deliberately keep their ice temperature as warm and soft as possible to slow the game down. Other teams prefer a colder, harder surface to capitalize on their team’s speed. While those differences are inevitable, at least the surface doesn’t change temperature/ firmness over the course of the game.

There’s a reason this sport moved from its outdoor roots to the great indoors: it’s better indoors. The ice is consistent through the game (obviously it degrades later in periods, I know that). No goofy elements like sun glare or 30 mph straight-line winds give one team an advantage over the other. If you like hockey (good, high quality, even competition, let’s find our who’s better hockey), you like it indoors.

For all of you who discount Point Against #1 by saying something inane like "both teams have to play in it", how would you like to watch a basketball played in TCF Bank Stadium in sub-freezing temperatures with snow on the court? You wouldn’t. Yes, the surface in hockey is as important as the hardwood in basketball.

How to determine if a sport should be played outside: simply ask, is it played on grass (or something artificial meant to look like grass)? If yes, play outside. If the surface is anything else, play inside.

Point Against #2: This game will affect the conference standings and you’ve given away home-ice advantage completely. The Gophers are the better team in this matchup. I think I can say that without it being too controversial. The reason home ice advantage is ruined is two-fold.

First, see Point Against #1. The unpredictable nature playing surface and conditions will close the talent-gap that would otherwise exist between these two teams. Anyone who watched the HCC game against Wisconsin last year knows what I’m talking about. The Gopher’s three main advantages over the Badgers were skating, passing, and puck-handling. As the game wore on, the ice went to hell, and those three aspects of the game became nearly impossible. You needed a snow shovel to move the puck. Ludicrous. Since that was a conference game (which I feel the Gophers should have won in a normal game), the Gophers had to share the McNaughton Cup with St. Cloud State at the end of the year.

Secondly, the outdoor ice will be NHL dimensions, not the Olympic dimensions the Gophers are used to playing on at home.

Point Against #3: This is an obvious money grab. Forget all the talk about atmosphere and experiences. How many seats in Mariucci? 10,000. How many seats can you sell at TCF Bank Stadium based on the "atmosphere" expected? 50,805. In essence, the University has added four home games worth of ticket sales without having to add a single date to the schedule. This game was going to be played on Friday, indoors or out.

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Point Against #4: Who wants to pay money to watch a hockey game from over fifty yards away, horizontally? Seriously, who wants that?

I’ll see you at the Bank tomorrow. We’ll all be suckers together.

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