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Sept. 29, 2004

The 2004-05 edition of the Ohio State men’s hockey team has an ultimate goal in sight – the 2005 NCAA Frozen Four at its home rink, Value City Arena. To get there, the young squad, comprised of just three seniors and four juniors along with eight sophomores and 11 freshmen, has a rough slate of non-conference and Central Collegiate Hockey Association competition.

Last season, the squad came together at crunch time, winning three games in three days (including two come-from-behind overtime contests) to capture the CCHA Super Six Tournament title for the first time since 1972. Fifteen players return from that team and bring with them the experience of the championship run. Under 10th-year head coach John Markell, the returnees will share the experience gained from the tourney with a large rookie class. The combination of a veteran group and outstanding fresh faces will carry the Buckeyes through the 2004-05 season.

Although the team lost nine seniors from the squad last year, the Buckeyes return Dave Caruso, the 2004 CCHA Super Six All-Tournament Team goalie, as well as five strong defensemen and nine forwards who now have at least one season of collegiate hockey under their belts. The defense will be counted on to lead the way, especially in the early part of the season as the forwards look to replace the offense lost from last year’s campaign.

Between the Pipes
Caruso returns for his junior year after backing up Mike Betz, Ohio State’s career wins leader, since joining the squad in January 2002. Caruso was outstanding last season, backstopping the Buckeyes to the CCHA Super Six title, as he was 3-0-0 in the tournament with a 1.88 goals-against average and .922 save percentage to earn all-tournament team accolades. In the 2003-04 campaign, Caruso saw action in 14 games, recording a 1.97 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

Battling Caruso for playing time will be newcomer Ian Keserich. Keserich, a Parma, Ohio, native who played junior hockey for the Cleveland Barons, was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He helped the U.S. Under-18 Select Team to the 2003 U-18 Junior World Cup title, earning best goaltender of the tournament honors. Phil Lauderdale (Greenwich, Conn.), who played for the OSU club hockey team last year and played his junior hockey for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, also will practice with the squad.

On the Blueline
The Buckeye defensive corps returns a wealth of experience from last season, as five blueliners who saw significant action are back, and has an impressive trio of rookie defensemen joining the squad. Leading the way will be junior Nate Guenin, who was an honorable mention All-CCHA selection last season while limited to just 29 games because of injury. Guenin, a New York Rangers draft pick, had 17 points a year ago, including 15 assists, and was +13.

With a year of experience under their belts, the sophomore trio of Sean Collins, Tyson Strachan and Matt Waddell will be depended on heavily this season. Collins led the freshman blueliners with 16 points and was +9 in 41 games. Strachan competed in 30 games for the squad, recording seven points. Waddell saw action in 41 contests, with a 2-11-13 line, and was third on the team with a +15 rating. Senior Thomas Welsh, who posted seven points last year in 24 games, completes the group of returning defensemen.

Added to the Buckeye blueline roster this season are freshmen Jason DeSantis, Kyle Hood and Johann Kroll. DeSantis, from Oxford, Mich., spent the last two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program, posting 14 points last season, and competed in the 2004 World Under-18 Championship. Osoyoos, British Columbia, native Hood played for the Cowichan Valley Capitals last year, ranking second on the team with 66 points, including 56 assists. Kroll, a native of Plymouth, Minn., was a second team All-USHL selection last season while playing with the Sioux City Musketeers. He posted 31 points in 57 regular-season games and was a member of the 2004 U.S. Viking Cup squad.

On the Attack
Despite the loss of five forwards from last season, including the top two scorers, the Buckeyes return a solid group of nine forwards and are adding five outstanding freshmen that should make up for the loss of scoring. Senior captain JB Bittner had a career-best 20 points last year, including 12 goals. He was first on the team with five gamewinners and ranked first with six power-play tallies. Fellow senior Lee Spector saw action in 37 games a year ago and had 4-5-9 totals, including two game-winning scores, and was a key part of the Buckeyes’ penalty-killing unit.

Junior Dan Knapp is the top returning scorer after tying for fourth on the team last year with a career-best 30 points, ranking fourth on the squad with 13 goals and ending the season fourth on the team with a +14 rating. Classmate Rod Pelley, who earned 2004 CCHA All-Tournament Team honors, played in all 42 games last season, posting 10 goals and 22 points.

Five sophomores round out the group of returnees. Andrew Schembri, a 2004 CCHA All-Rookie Team honorable mention choice, led all Buckeye newcomers with 23 points a year ago, including 11 goals. Matt Beaudoin recorded seven goals and seven assists last season, including seven points during the postseason, in 40 games. Bryce Anderson, who played in 31 games, had five goals and six assists as a rookie. Dave Barton posted six assists in 21 games, while Kenny Bernard had 1-2-3 totals in 32 games.

Joining the squad will be six freshmen – Sam Campbell, John Dingle, Tom Fritsche, Domenic Maiani, Matt McIlvane and Zach Pelletier. Campbell (Hamilton, Ontario) ranked sixth in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League in scoring with a 30-56-86 line last season while playing for the Hamilton Red Wings. Dingle (Shaker Heights, Ohio) played for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League, posting 44 points in 57 games and earning a spot on the 2004 Viking Cup team. Fritsche (Parma, Ohio) played for the U.S. National Team Development Program, ranking second on the squad in scoring with 51 points, including 24 goals. He also played on the silver-medal winning squad in the World Under-18 Championship. Maiani (Shelby Township, Mich.) spent the last two seasons with the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL and was second on the team in scoring last season with 45 points, including 17 goals. He also was a member of the U.S. Viking Cup squad that won the silver medal. McIlvane (Naperville, Ill.), an Ottawa Senators draft pick, played for the Chicago Steel of the USHL last season, posting 46 points in 59 regular-season games. Pelletier, from China Village, Maine, played for the Boston Bulldogs last year, with 14-23-37 totals.

What to Watch for This Season …
• The Buckeyes will play host to the 2005 NCAA Frozen Four in Value City Arena April 7-9. It marks the first time the championship will be held at a campus site since 1983 (Ralph Englestad Arena, Grand Forks, N.D.). OSU competed in its only Frozen Four in 1998.

• Ohio State enters the season as the defending CCHA tournament champion for the first time since winning the tourney title in 1972. The squad won three games in three days at the 2004 CCHA Super Six to become the first team not based in Michigan to win the postseason title since 1988 (Bowling Green) and ended a streak of eight years in a row Michigan or Michigan State won the crown.

• The Buckeyes are looking to extend their stretch of consecutive NCAA appearances to three this season. The squad has qualified for the national tournament four times overall and in the last seven years, all under head coach John Markell.

• Ohio State has not had a game end in a tie since recording back-to-back ties against Michigan March 7 and 8, 2003, a stretch of 48 games entering the 2004-05 campaign. The squad did not record a tie last season, marking the first time that happened since back-to-back seasons in 1971 and 1972.

• The Buckeyes are looking for their fourth consecutive 20-win season. The program has never had more than three 20-win seasons in a row. Under Markell, the Buckeyes have five 20 or more win seasons in nine years.

• Ohio State will co-host and compete in the inaugural Ohio Hockey Classic at Nationwide Arena in Columbus (home of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets) in December. The tournament features OSU and Miami of the CCHA taking on Colorado College and Minnesota State from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The tourney stops a streak of four consecutive appearances for the Buckeyes in the Everblades College Classic in Florida.

• The Buckeyes feature a young lineup this season, as the squad is comprised of just three seniors and four juniors, joined by eight sophomores and 11 freshmen. The squad lost nine seniors from last year’s NCAA tournament team.

• The Buckeyes added three Ohio natives to the roster this season – Fritsche and Keserich of Parma and Dingle of Shaker Heights. All-time, 57 Buckeye letterwinners have called Ohio home, with the most recent Jarret Whidden from 1995-97 and Adam Smith from 1992-95. Three former Buckeyes hailed from Parma – Ed Dean (1967), Don Kukul (1966) and Ron Pandy (1967-68).

• Buckeye head coach John Markell is entering his 10th full season at the helm of the Ohio State squad. Markell, who took over the program as interim head coach with seven games remaining in the 1995 season and officially was named head coach May 22, 1995, has a career ledger of 173-162-28 and is 120-119-24 in CCHA play.