Somma Cum Laude
Buckeyes senior sparks 'Team of the Week' Ohio State
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Ohio State is well known for its "dotting of the i" marching band routine — at least in another sport. This past weekend, the exclamation point served as the punctuation for the Buckeyes on the ice, as senior forward Sergio Somma helped make sure all i's were dotted and all t's were crossed in a rousing sweep of in-state rival Miami.
The reward? Well, in addition to being named CHN Team of the Week, the Buckeyes enjoyed a leap up the CCHA standings and have now won six in a row — a stark contrast to the same team that started the season losing five one-goal games in the first month of play.
The Buckeyes defeated Miami 1-0 on Friday night thanks in large part to Somma's power-play tally that came with 8.9 seconds remaining in the second period. After Miami goaltender Cody Reichard was left out of position following a save on a shot from Ohio State's John Albert, Somma was in position between the hash marks to fire the puck into an empty net.
Saturday, Somma helped spark a comeback for the Buckeyes, who trailed 2-0 heading into the third period. Less than three minutes into the final frame, the senior co-captain put Ohio State on the board and set the stage for an offensive outburst that culminated in a 5-2 come-from-behind victory.
OSU goaltender Cal Heeter posted a .969 save percentage for the weekend, including a dramatic 40-save shutout on Friday night. For his efforts, Heeter — who has started every game for Ohio State this year — was named the CCHA Goaltender of the Week.
"We played well on Friday," said Somma, the team's leading goal-scorer. "On Saturday, we kind of got away from our game plan [in the first two periods] and were in the penalty box. Coach [Mark Osiecki] told us he wasn't happy with our play and wanted us to go out in the third period and challenge each other and leave it on the ice."
This is Osiecki's first season as head coach of Ohio State. Earlier this year, Osiecki told CHN that he planned to bring a new "culture" to the program in Columbus.
"It's another step — that's really what we’ve been talking about," said Osiecki after completing the weekend sweep. "We told them to remember the feeling in the third and how it felt."
Somma, meanwhile, points to the team's improved late-game physical conditioning this season as compared to seasons past — another sign that the culture appears to already be changing.
Said Somma, "It's a lot different, as far as game strategies, and how [Osiecki] handles the team in the locker room and how he carries himself. He's a real intense guy. It's black and white. You know where you stand. You know what you're doing wrong. He'll let us know, and he tries to get us back on track."
As for Somma himself, he has been on track for weeks. The Pittsburgh native — and lifelong Mario Lemieux and Pittsburgh Penguins fan — leads the team with 13 goals and leads all OSU forwards with a plus-8 on-ice rating. In the Buckeyes' six-game winning streak, Somma has scored six goals, including Friday night's game winner against Miami.
"I try to play a simple game," said Somma. "I try and go to the net, and I've been getting some good bounces. The line I've been playing on with John Albert — he's been elevating his game. I think we've been meshing together well, and it's been paying off."
Albert, who had two goals and two assists in the sweep of the Redhawks, was named the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week. He and Somma have developed into one of the top power-play duos in the country. Somma has eight power play tallies this season — second-best in the country — and many of the assists have been credited to Albert, as well as senior defenseman Shane Sims.
Said Somma, "We've practiced our power play more this year. The coaches have been putting the onus on the guys on the power play. We have an important job, and we've been trying to put pressure on ourselves to step up at big points during the game."
Now, with weekend series looming against the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan, and Michigan State — all within the next month — Somma and co. will look to keep one of the nation's best winning streaks going.
"What we expect from ourselves now is more than it was before," said Somma.
"It's starting to come together now."