New Ohio State men’s hockey coach Steve Rohlik chuckled when he saw the schedule for the inaugural Big Ten hockey conference season.
His and the program’s “welcome to the league” game will be Friday Nov. 29 in venerable and hostile Yost Arena against the host Michigan Wolverines.
That also happens to be the night preceding “The Game” when Urban Meyer takes his first OSU football team to Ann Arbor.
“They didn’t do us any favors,” Rohlik joked.
At least the Buckeyes know what they’re getting into having played and had success at Michigan in the past few seasons as foes in the now defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
“That’s okay” Rohlik said. “We know the building we’re going in to play is never easy. It doesn’t matter if it’s Friday night before football, or a Monday or a Wednesday afternoon. We know it’s going to be a tough game.”
The rematch will be the following Monday in Value City Arena and the schools will do a split weekend home-and-home later in the season as well.
OSU will play at Michigan on Fri. Feb. 28 and greet the visitors from up north either Sunday March 2 or the following day, depending on the scheduling of basketball games in Value City Arena.
The Buckeye will also play Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin home and away twice to complete the 20-game schedule.
“You don’t have to look at the teams you’re playing” said Rohlik, who was promoted from associate head coach on April 24, nine days after third-year coach Mark Osiecki was fired. “You look at the Big Ten and you know you’re in for a handful every weekend.”
The schedule is fan friendly with league play not starting until the football season is almost over. The Michigan series represents the lone Big Ten games for the Buckeyes before Christmas. And the first weekend in January is open so teams won’t be affected by having their top players compete in the Under-20 World Junior Championship that will be concluding.
“I think the conference tried to get the preseason games, most of them any way, out of the way before the conference games,” Rohlik said. “Certainly in our case and I’m sure for the other campuses, it’s to get a little bit away from football.”
Ohio State will open the season with a familiar foe in a different league, too. Miami, a former CCHA member now in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, plays in Columbus on Friday Oct. 11 with the teams meeting again in Oxford, Ohio, the next night.
The Buckeyes then play at another ex-CCHA program, Bowling Green, on Tuesday Oct 15. The Falcons moved to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
After an open weekend, OSU goes to Pittsburgh to play Robert Morris on Friday Oct. 25 with the second game in Columbus the next night. Bowling Green visits the following Tuesday to complete the season series.
Minnesota Duluth, the 2011 national championship, plays in Value City Friday and Saturday Nov. 1-2 after the Buckeyes played them on the road to open the 2012-13 season.
The significance of the games are that Rohlik and new associate head coach Brett Larson both were assistants at UMD under Scott Sandelin.
“I have lot of respect for Coach Sandelin,” Rohlik said. “I’m sitting here today because of guys like that who gave me opportunities.
“I know they’re going to have a good team. Other than that it’s going to be a great weekend. Our guys know they’re one of the better teams out there.”
OSU plays Niagara and Canisius the next two weekends to complete a seven-game homestand before traveling to Michigan.
Of note are the last two non-conference games Friday and Saturday Dec. 28-29 at home against Mercyhurst.
Also, the regular season concludes Friday and Saturday March 14-15 when the Buckeyes make their first trip to Penn State’s new arena.
Unlike past years in the CCHA when the early rounds of the playoffs were on campus, the Big Ten tournament involving all six teams will be held Thursday through Saturday March 20-22 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.