Ohio State junior forward Chris Crane had some simple advice for his teammates - more than half the team - who hadn't made the arduous trip to Fairbanks, Alaska to play the Nanooks:
Pack a toothbrush in your carry-on bag.
Crane learned the hard way two years ago as a freshman that getting there is neither direct nor fast.
"We traveled all day. I think we were on three planes," he said. "When we got there, none of our luggage are there. Our hockey bags aren't there. We can't even brush our teeth so it was a rough trip."
Fortunately, the Buckeyes could be making their last trip there this weekend for likely a long, long time unless the teams meet in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs as they did in 2009.
Ohio State (11-11-6, 9-6-4-1 CCHA) wants to avoid that and bid adieu to Alaska as the Buckeyes head to the new Big Ten conference next season while the Nanooks join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The teams play Friday and Saturday at 11 pm. ET in the Carlson Center with much at stake. The Buckeyes sit fifth with 35 points to hold the final home-ice spot for the first round. The Nanooks (12-10-4, 10-9-3-1) are a point back. OSU has eight games left, two more than Alaska.
Not only must the Buckeyes adjust to the long travel and a time change, they will play on a Olympic-sized ice that is 15 feet wider than what they are used to in Value City Arena and most rinks although they were on a similar enlarged configuration at Northern Michigan on Jan. 18-19.
"You definitely need to have your legs," Crane said. "The Olympic size sheet actually helps our team. We're a high end speed team."
That's how the Nanooks would be described as well, according to OSU coach Mark Osiecki said.
"They're a team that plays with high energy, high skill, high speed," he said. "Very much a transition team. They're fast and they get after you. They'll be tough to play against up there."
OSU hopes to have some energy of its own after playing flat for the first time in a long time in last Saturday's 2-2 tie (with a shootout loss) to Notre Dame. The previously-goal challenged Buckeyes had scored 15 times in winning three straight prior to that.
"We're really jelling offensively up front," sophomore forward Max McCormick said. "Getting everybody back, getting some lines that are sticking together helps. We're doing a lot of little things - getting more pucks to the net, more bodies to the net and finding those loose pucks and rebounds around the net and burying them. That's been a big part of it."
Osiecki said all along that once the team got healthy the goals would come. The forwards are fine but top defenseman junior Curtis Gedig did not travel because of a knee sprain and is unlikely to play next weekend.
"You are a different team when you don't have some of your players available to be put in the lineup," Osiecki said. "You have to find a way to gut through that. It's the next up mentality. I know that's kind of a football term. You're never really ready for an injury."
The last time the teams played in Columbus in November the Buckeyes won in a shootout but lost the next night.
A big series in Alaska could move OSU to as high as third with four straight home games to follow.
"It's nice to be able to come home Sunday and know you have home games," Crane said, noting two log bus trips to Michigan's Upper Peninsula already. "We've been traveling all year."