By John Lachmann
WHO: Ohio State Buckeyes (13-14-7) at No. 3 Miami RedHawks (21-8-5).
WHERE: Cady Arena, Oxford, Ohio.
WHEN: Friday—7:35 p.m.; Saturday—7:05 p.m.
TV: Friday—Sports Time Ohio (DirecTV Ch. 662, Dish Network Ch. 5431) and Time Warner SportsChannel (Ohio only); Saturday—Time Warner SportsChannel (tape delayed at 9 p.m. on STO).
MIAMI RADIO: Both nights—WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.
OHIO STATE RADIO: Both nights—WBNS (AM) 1460, Columbus, Ohio.
NOTES: Miami enters the weekend needing one point to clinch a tie for the CCHA regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Two points would give the RedHawks the CCHA's final regular season championship outright.
Currently in fifth place in the conference, Ohio State has wrapped up a first-round bye in the CCHA Tournament, but the Buckeyes have the opportunity to move into fourth place, which would ensure OSU home ice for the second round.
Ohio State is currently in 24th place in the PairWise Rankings, which are used to determine at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament, so the Buckeyes need wins at this point more than Miami and should come out with plenty of energy.
The Buckeyes were swept by Michigan in Columbus last weekend after a 1-0-1 home weekend vs. Western Michigan.
Ohio State has played more high-scoring games since these teams last met in December, having outscored its opponents, 33-30 in its last 10 games.
Despite their recent scoring surge, the Buckeyes have only generated points from a handful of forwards. Sophomores Ryan Dzingel, Tanner Fritz and Max McCormick, as well as junior Alex Szczechura have accounted for the last nine Ohio State goals, and those four are the only players on the team with more than 11 points this season.
Dzingel has a five-game point streak, during which he has recorded two goals and four assists. Fritz has scored in three straight games, with four goals and five helpers in that span. The pair is tied with Miami sophomore forward Austin Czarnik for second in the CCHA in points with 32.
Dzingel, an Ottawa Senators draft pick, has a team-high 14 goals and has dished for 18 assists, and Fritz has netted 10 goals and picked up a Buckeyes-best 22 assists.
McCormick – also selected by the Sens – has also scored in three straight games, recorded three markers and three assists. He is third on the team in points (11-13-24).
Szczechura has 19 points on the season (10-9-19), and he notched the team's second hat trick of the season in a win over Western Michigan two weeks ago.
Freshman Craig Dalrymple leads Ohio State in defenseman scoring with 11 points (2-9-11), and junior Curtis Gedig is second (2-8-10), although the New Jersey Devils draftee has missed six of the last seven games with an undisclosed injury.
Senior Devin Krogh (2-5-7) and Chicago Blackhawks draft pick freshman Sam Jardine – back after a horrific wrist injury (0-7-7) – and also keys on the Buckeyes' blue line.
Senior goalie Brady Hjelle is still second in the CCHA behind only Miami freshman Ryan McKay in save percentage at .934 and fifth in goals-against average (2.00), but he has been mortal recently. In his last three games, he has stopped just 74-of-86 shots (.860) with a record of 0-2-1.
He was lifted in favor of freshman Collin Olson – a draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes – inn Ohio State's last game, and Olson allowed a goal on the only shot he faced.
Olson is 2-3-1 with a 3.09 GAA and a .901 save percentage, so it's likely Hjelle will start at least Friday. But if he struggles again coach Mark Osiecki could turn to his freshman.
With three points last weekend, RedHawks freshman Riley Barber leads the CCHA points race by two with 14 goals and 20 assists. Czarnik is in a three-way tie for second with 32.
Since the beginning of the 2013 calendar year, Barber leads the team with 12 points in 14 games.
Tied for second in that span? Senior forward Marc Hagel and freshman defenseman Matthew Caito with 11 points each.
Caito has goals in back-to-back games and four of his five in the second half of the season.
Hagel scored two goals in the first 29 games – both in the same game – but he has netted three in the last five. All 11 of his second-half points have come in the last eight games.
It's safe to say Miami has overcome its struggle to score early in games. The RedHawks have nine first-period goals in their last nine games.
So who will start in net on Friday? The best guess is McKay, who leads the country in goals-against average (1.06) and save percentage (.962), but considering his injury earlier this season Miami coach Enrico Blasi may not want to play him on consecutive nights, something he has not done since his return.
McKay did play both ends of the Notre Dame series, but the finale was on Sunday.
Freshman Jay Williams allowed four goals on 29 shots last Friday at Lake Superior State, and McKay followed by stopping
44-of-45 shots. Both earned wins.