Ohio State vs. Michigan: Hockey Series Preview
By Matthew Van Wormer
Tonight, at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and #16 ranked Michigan Wolverines start a two game series that has a bit of a twist involved. While the first game will take place in Columbus, the second game, to be played on Sunday, will take place on the Frozen Diamond at Progressive Field. It will be the first collegiate hockey game played outdoors in the state of Ohio, but it won’t be a first for the Buckeyes or the Wolverines.
The 2001 “Cold War” was the first appearance by either team in an outdoor game as UM took on Michigan State at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. They renewed their outdoor rivalry in December 2010 and set a record for largest crowd at an outdoor hockey game when over 113,000 people packed in for the “Big Chill at the Big House.” This will be Ohio State’s second game on an outdoor sheet but for their coach, Mark Osiecki, it will be his third trip.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two (outdoor games) and the experience is unbelievable,” Osiecki said. “With the Winter Classics and the Heritage Classics up in Canada, kids are getting excited and it’s something (the players) will remember for the rest of their lives.” Coach Osiecki also sees this game as another great way to sell the sport and knows that anything that will help grow the sport of hockey in America is a good thing.
Playing in an outdoor game brings special challenges that you don’t normally have to worry about when playing in an arena. Coach Osiecki mentioned that his players are trying a number of different types of under gear that will help keep them warm in what is forecasted to be a 29 degree day in downtown Cleveland. While it seems most of the players are not changing their normal gear, the Buckeyes have been in contact with the Cleveland Browns equipment staff as well as the staff of the Green Bay Packers to help their players pick the right pieces of equipment to keep them warm.
While this game has the feel of an exhibition, being that it is outdoors, it is still a league game for both teams who compete in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Coach Osiecki believes the most important thing for his team is to continue to improve. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first game of the season, middle of the season, indoor or outdoor, we’ve got to be better and continually improve,” Osiecki said. “Michigan is fired up and are a top ten, maybe a top five team.”
One thing is for sure, hockey fans will have the chance to experience something very unique as two very good college teams take each other on in a battle that goes beyond the ice. If you don’t have tickets yet, they are still available and you should get some along with some long johns, gloves and hats to stay nice and warm while watching a great contest on the ice.