Johns Hopkins has won six of seven meetings in this Big Ten series, but Ohio State won for the first time on April 5, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes are just 1-3 on the road, while the Blue Jays are 3-1 at home.
Ohio State (5-6 overall and 0-1 in the conference) is mired in a five-game losing skid and hasn't won since March 6. While scoring has been a problem, the defense does rank 16th in Division I after allowing just 8.7 goals per game, and only three opponents have cracked the 10-goal mark. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Tom Carey ranks 17th in goals-against average (8.68), 26th in save percentage (.525) and 28th in saves per game (9.6).
No. 16 Johns Hopkins (5-4, 0-1) is coming off a somewhat surprising 16-9 loss to No. 19 Rutgers in the league opener for both sides a week ago. If freshman midfielder Drew Supinski (eight goals and four assists) can't make his ninth start of the season, don't be surprised to see Kieran Eissler make his second start of 2016. Although the sophomore has posted just two goals and three assists, he brings the dodging presence that Supinski has.
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Homewood Field in Baltimore.
1) Tighten up the defense. As mentioned above, Ohio State's offense has struggled and has gone six consecutive games without scoring 10 goals. But the Scarlet Knights exposed Johns Hopkins' defense, especially on the interior where players were open in the slot or on the crease for easy goals. Coach Dave Pietramala said he expects the Buckeyes to try to attack the same gaps in settled and unsettled situations.
"They tend to be very patient on offense," he said. "They will take advantage of transition if they have it, and they'll play a lot of subbing games and look to attack that way. So we've got to do a better job of defending in those unsettled situations and those subbing situations. And we clearly need to be more on-point six-on-six."
2) Earn possessions through faceoffs. Johns Hopkins has relied on senior Craig Madarasz (50.6 percent on 79-of-156) and sophomore Hunter Moreland (64.0 percent on 48-of-75) to gain 55.5 percent (131-of-236) of its draws. But Ohio State has been even better, claiming 58.2 percent (135-of-232) courtesy of junior Jake Withers (59.4 percent on 126-of-212). How Madarasz and Moreland (Boys' Latin) fare against Withers could be crucial.
"Against Ohio State, they are a team that has been very good at the faceoff X," Pietramala said. "So that will be an important part of the game. Faceoffs can dictate time of possession. We can't be on the short end of time of possession in this game."
3) Cut down on errors. Johns Hopkins committed just 10 turnovers in that loss at Rutgers, but seven of those gaffes occurred in the second half, thereby crippling a potential comeback. The extra-man offense whiffed on three opportunities, the man-down defense surrendered three goals in four attempts, and the Blue Jays misfired on 2-of-13 clears. Pietramala said he is looking for the team to clean up those mistakes.
"We can't play against two opponents," he said. "We've got to play against the team in the other jersey. We've got to get out of our own way. … We made a lot of mistakes. So the first thing is, we've got to clean up our own house. We've got to find a way to be a more disciplined team."