The #3 University of Denver Pioneers will open their regular season against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday night. The game will be the second of four games in the Ice Breaker Tournament held at Magness Arena. The tournament also features Air Force and #5 Boston College.
The Big Ten’s Buckeyes are relatively unknown, considering they were a team that was very young last year and struggled to get their feet wet early in the season. In 2015-16, the Ohio State hockey team went 14-18-4. That record is somewhat deceiving considering they ended the season on a 6-2-1 run over their final nine games.
The Buckeyes had one of the more electrifying offenses last year, ranking ninth in the nation in goals scored and six of their top seven scorers return this year. That group includes their top four scorers from a year ago in Nick Schilkey, David Gust, Matthew Weis, and Mason Jobst. Schilkey, the Buckeyes’ captain, led the team in scoring last season with 19 goals and 22 assists in 36 games.
As exciting as OSU’s offense can be, the Buckeyes’ biggest weakness is on defense. The Buckeyes allowed an alarming 3.47 goals per game last year, which ranked a paltry 53rd in the country.
In their exhibition game against Wilfried Laurier University last weekend, they started right where they left off last year winning 9-2. Sophomores accounted for seven of the team’s nine goals and tallied five assists. Dakota Joshua was the most impressive Buckeye on the ice, grabbing himself a hat trick and also notching an assist. John Wiitala (2-2-4), Jobst (1-2-3) and Rookie Tanner Laczynski (0-3-3) had noteworthy performances as well.
The Pios could be caught by surprise if they overlook the Buckeyes and their high-flying offense, especially if they look past OSU thinking about potentially playing Boston College in the championship on Saturday. That really shouldn’t be an issue for a Jim Montgomery-coached team. It should also set the fans up with a big time matchup between two Frozen Four teams from a year ago in BC vs. DU…assuming Boston College can get past Air Force on Friday afternoon.