Of the three CCHA teams led by new coaches this season, Ohio State has arguably been the biggest disappointment for far too long a time. After all, this is a school with huge resources, a high profile and matching expectations.
New coach Mark Osiecki, an assistant at Wisconsin for six seasons — and therefore wise in the ways of the Big Ten — is preaching a message of tough love as this year begins.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Osiecki said. “We have a lot of upperclassmen.”
Normally, having many returning veterans would be considered a plus for teams trying to rebuild. Experience equals knowledge and wisdom, right?
“There are a couple of them that came back and did nothing this summer in terms of training,” Osiecki said, “so what kind of statement are they making to us as a staff? There are other kids who have come back and who have gone through the roof with their training.
“I think it’s positive on the front that there is definitely going to be a handful of these kids that are tremendous kids, very good hockey players that are definitely going to grasp what we’re talking about here and that’s going to help their careers.
“I think on the big picture of our program, we’re able to move out 11 seniors and bring in new culture and bring these kids in at a relatively young age. Obviously, we’d like to have some more youth this year, but at least next year you can bring in some youth and create that culture that we’re talking about here.”
But who can blame Osiecki, given the talent the Buckeyes have had and their lack of consistent production (and their apparent lack of commitment)? Last year, OSU followed a promising fifth-place finish in 2008-09 with 10 league wins and an eighth-place finish. No trip to Detroit. No NCAA appearance.
No more fooling around.
“We’ve got to try to give them what we want, have them feel our passion,” Osiecki said. “We have to try to create our culture. We’d like to play an up-tempo, very aggressive, offensive game. I’m not sure we’ll have the capability of doing that with the players we have in the locker room. We’re learning more every day.”
The Buckeyes return one player who netted more than 10 goals last season, senior Sergio Somma. Also returning are two decent goaltenders, Dustin Carlson and Cal Heeter. Both played last season. “We’ve told both of them that it’s an open competition,” Osiecki said.
Open competition for playing time will be the theme for the entire Buckeyes squad. “It’s not just about hockey,” Osiecki said. “It’s about life. We want kids that are going to come in here and mature as hockey players and mature as a person away from the rink.”