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The Buckeye freshman class (l-r):
Ryan Kesler, Dan Knapp, Dave Caruso,
Rod Pelley, Nate Guenin

The Ohio State men’s hockey team, a mature squad with six seniors and 10 juniors, has added an outstanding five-man freshman class to the roster this season. The newest Buckeyes – goalie Dave Caruso, defenseman Nate Guenin and forwards Ryan Kesler, Dan Knapp and Rod Pelley – bring a wealth of experience to the squad.

Although each Buckeye had his own individual reasons for committing to OSU, there are common threads – including the school, the coaching staff, the facilities and a desire to win – for each.

“I came for the Big Ten atmosphere,” Caruso said. “The facilities, the academics and the school spirit, as well as the hockey coaches, are all great.”

“The facilities are first class and the coaching staff made me feel right at home,” Knapp said. “OSU is an up-and-coming program and I wanted to be a part of it.”

“I love the big school atmosphere and the facilities,” Guenin said. “And, I came here to win.”

“I was excited by the winning atmosphere here,” Pelley said. “The facilities are great. I was impressed by the amount of interest they showed in me during the recruiting process.”

“The facilities are unbelievable,” Kesler said. “The campus was nice and the coaches know what they’re talking about.”

The Buckeye freshmen already have made contributions to the team’s success and will continue to do so throughout their collegiate careers, helping make the OSU program among the best in the nation.

Caruso, a native of Roswell, Ga., joined the squad in January 2002 but redshirted the season and has four years of eligibility remaining. Last year, the 6-1, 201 pound goalie spent his time at Ohio State adjusting to college life and now is enjoying his first full year as a Buckeye. Caruso, a big, athletic goaltender, participated in the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers prospects camp over the summer. He played junior hockey for two years with the Boston Bulldogs, an independent team. He posted a 1.16 goals-against average and a save percentage of .927 in 2000-01 and was named the Hockey Night in Boston Junior Goalie of the Year that season. Caruso, 20, is the son of Dave and Linda Caruso. He has two sisters, Jenni (18), a freshman at West Georgia University, and Nicki (12) and a brother, Chris (10).

Caruso has not played in a regular-season game yet this season, but did see action in OSU’s exhibition game against Waterloo, posting two saves while holding the Warriors scoreless.

Guenin, a 6-2, 200-pound defenseman, is a native of Aliquippa, Pa. Over the summer, he was drafted by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft with the 127th overall pick. He spent two seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League and served as the team captain his last season. In 2002, Guenin saw action in 55 games, posting 4-11-15 totals and 150 penalty minutes. He competed in the 2002 Viking Cup with the USA Junior Select Team, along with OSU classmate Knapp. Guenin, who will be 20 Dec. 10, is the son of Kevin and Carla Guenin. He is the fourth current Buckeye from the Pittsburgh area, joining Mike Betz, JB Bittner and R.J. Umberger.

Guenin has played in all three games for Ohio State this season, but has not yet recorded a point. In the squad’s exhibition win over Waterloo, Guenin scored a goal.

Kesler, 18, joins the Buckeyes after two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program. A native of Livonia, Mich., Kesler led the U.S. National Under-18 Team in scoring last season with 19 goals and 43 assists for 62 points. He was a member of the squad that claimed the IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He received the best player award at the end of the tournament and was the player of the game in the tilt between the U.S. and Canada. Kesler, the son of Mike and Linda Kesler, has a brother, Todd (26) and a sister, Jenny (26). His father played hockey at Colorado College.

In just his second collegiate game, Kesler posted three assists in the Buckeyes’ 6-3 victory on the road at Alaska Fairbanks. He has participated in all three Ohio State games this year, posting 0-3-3 totals and a +3 rating. In The Hockey News (Oct. 11 edition), Kesler was selected as the No. 1 2003 NHL draft prospect in the CCHA.

Knapp, a 5-11, 185 pound forward, spent three seasons with the Compuware Ambassadors of the North American Hockey League, serving two years as the team captain. In his final season, he led the squad in scoring, and was second in the league, with 88 points in 53 games. He led the league with 62 assists and also had 15 power-play goals. His team won the NAHL regular season and tournament titles and also claimed the Junior A National Championship. Knapp also participated in the 2002 Viking Cup with the USA Junior Select Team. Knapp, 19, is the son of Larry and Jan Knapp. He has a younger sister, Lindsay (17). His cousin, Shawn Chambers, won the Stanley Cup with both the New Jersey Devils and the Dallas Stars.

Knapp already has made a mark as a Buckeye, earning CCHA Rookie of the Week honors following his performance against Alaska Fairbanks last week. Knapp scored three goals to lead the Buckeyes to a 1-0-1 mark against the Nanooks. He tallied twice in the series opener, including the gamewinning goal, and scored OSU’s lone goal in a 1-1 tie in the finale.

Pelley, a 6-0, 190 pound forward, is a native of Kitmat, British Columbia. He began the 2001-02 season with the Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League, serving as the team’s captain, but was traded to the Vernon Vipers for the playoff run. That season, he posted 31 goals and 43 assists for 74 points. Pelley was a member of Team Pacific, the silver medallist at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in 2001. Pelley was a 2002 First Team BCHL All-Star selection. Pelley, 18, is the son of Fred and Nancy Pelley and has a brother, Ryan.

This season Pelley has played in all three regular-season games for the Buckeyes, as well as the exhibition game. He has recorded six shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating.

The elder Buckeyes have high expectations for the newest members of the team.

“They’re a very talented group,” senior defenseman and alternate captain Eric Skaug said. “We expect great things from them this year.”

If the freshmen continue the success they already have had in their first three regular-season games as Buckeyes, there is no question their contribution will be felt by the program over the next four years and beyond.