Q&A with ... Ohio State Coach Steve Rohlik
by Brandon Gee/CHN Reporter
Steve Rohlik was brought in by Mark Osiecki to be an assistant coach the last few years. But after Osiecki was fired — for still murky reasons — by Ohio State last spring, Rohlik was temporarily left in the middle. However, after a search, the Buckeyes decided to choose him as the next head coach.
CHN: You took over the program from a colleague and a friend, how strange was it for you to have to deal with both the professional as well as personal concerns?
Rohlik: Well, obviously, it was something out of my control. It’s not how you script these things but the university had made a decision. They gave me an opportunity to move this program forward while building on the foundation that’s been laid. That’s the attitude I’ve had since (being hired), it’s my job to do the best I can for these players and this program and move all this forward.
CHN: You had already been at Ohio State for a few years, and while you may not have expected this job to be open so soon, was becoming a head coach an idea you were actively searching out?
Rohlik: When you’ve been in this business for 23 years, you just work as hard as you can because you just never know when the opportunity will come. I think that’s the attitude of a lot of guys, you just keep putting yourself out there and do the best job you can.
CHN: In your time with Minnesota-Duluth and Ohio State, you had real success as a recruiter, now you’re having to hand that responsibility off to take on other roles as a face of this program. Has it been odd to have to hand off something you’ve been so ingrained in for so long?
Rohlik: Yeah, I certainly enjoyed that end of it, and still do. Now that college hockey allows three coaches to be on the road, it allowed me to still be out there and be involved. You just have to surround yourself with good people who’ll work extremely hard. I’m very fortunate to have (assistant coach) Joe Exter and (associate head coach) Brett Larson to be a part of this program, that’s why they’re here. It certainly takes some of it off your plate, but for me, I’d like to be involved in that side of things as much as I can.
CHN: As far as the players are concerned, though the TV portion hasn’t come into play yet, what has it been like for them to now be a part of a conference like the Big Ten, like the rest of Ohio State’s major sports?
Rohlik: I think it’s an exciting time for this program. With the branding, everyone associates Ohio State with the Big Ten. With 36 sports here and the success this athletic department has had, it’s certainly nice to be under that umbrella of a Big Ten league. Once you get into the Big Ten Network, I think it’ll be great for college hockey, in general, when kids all over the U.S. and Canada will be able to see our game and can educate players out there to potential opportunity.
CHN: Have you seen any impact yet on recruiting in Ohio and the rest of the Midwest?
Rohlik: There’s a lot of talk out there, definitely. There are lots of great teams and schools out there but with the resources, both academically and in athletics, when you put the Big Ten out there, it certainly helps us stand out. It’s been a positive already.
CHN: The program does have to compete for attention with not just the school’s other sports but also with the NHL’s Blue Jackets. Have you noticed an uptick in fans and local media’s attention going into this season?
Rohlik: There has been a lot of positive feedback, but until we can get started, we don’t how people will respond. I think once we get going, the name recognition will have a nice effect on fans in the area.
CHN: OSU was picked to finish fourth in the Big Ten. You’re returning many of your top scorers, your captain (Curtis Gedig) heads up the defense, but you have three young netminders. What do you need from your team overall to finish better than that?
Rohlik: Everyone looks at goaltending first, it is the most important position. We lost an All-American (Brady Hjelle) but we’ve got Collin Olson, who’s got some games under his belt, and we’ve brought in two young kids including Matty Tomkins, who played great in his time in Alberta. I expect those two to compete as they’re both talented keepers. We don’t need them to steal us games, we just need them to play solid, dependable hockey. If we can do that from the net out, we’ve got some guys back and we’ll integrate the new guys into the system. I think we’ve got some great depth. I don’t necessarily think we’re gonna run-and-gun with teams but I don’t think we’ll always try to grind out 1-0 games, either. I think we’ve just got to feel things out a bit. I like our group, we’ve got a great locker room so I’m just excited to see what we’ve got.