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Oct. 12, 2005

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Faceoff
The No. 3/5 Ohio State men’s hockey opens the 2005-06 regular season with two games at No. 6 Colorado College this weekend. The teams will meet at 9:37 p.m. EDT Friday and at 9:07 p.m. EDT Saturday in Colorado Springs World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The games will be broadcast by WOSU Radio, with Neil Sika and former Buckeye Luke Pavlas on the call. The game Friday can be heard on the air at WOSU (820 AM Columbus) and both games will be broadcast on the Internet at wosu.org.

In the Opener
The Buckeyes opened the year with a 6-1 exhibition win over Western Ontario last Friday. Ten Buckeyes had at least a point in the game, led by sophomore Tom Fritsche with a 2-2-4 line. Fritsche and senior Rod Pelley staked the Buckeyes to a 2-0 lead after the first period. OSU outshot the Mustangs in the middle stanza, 21-1, but UWO goalie Scott Dickie kept the Buckeyes off the scoreboard. In the third, OSU scored four times in just over five minutes, with goals from Andrew Schembri, Corey Elkins, Matt Waddell and Fritsche. The Mustangs broke up the shutout with a goal at 17:19.

The Polls are In
The Buckeyes were ranked third in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and fifth in the USCHO.com/CSTV poll released Monday. In the preseason polls, Ohio State was tied for third in the USA Today poll and was fifth in the USCHO rankings.

The third-place ranking for Ohio State is the highest since the poll debuted in 1995-96. OSU’s previous best was sixth, reached at various times during the 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05 campaigns. The previous high preseason ranking was ninth entering the 1998-99 season.

In the USCHO.com poll, which began in 1997-98, the fifth-place ranking is the highest since the squad was rated fourth entering the 1998-99 campaign. Since that time, OSU has been as high as sixth in the 2003-04 season.

In the Inside College Hockey Power Poll first released Monday, the Buckeyes held down the No. 4 spot.

Buckeyes vs. Tigers
Ohio State and Colorado College have met twice, with CC leading, 1-0-1. The first meeting was Feb. 9, 1968, an 8-0 CC win in Colorado Springs. The teams met last season in the Ohio Hockey Classic at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Dec. 30, 2004, a 2-all tie.

The Last Meeting
In the game against No. 2-ranked Colorado College Dec. 30, 2004, in the Ohio Hockey Classic, Ohio State defenseman Sean Collins scored with less than five minutes remaining to lift the Buckeyes to a tie with their WCHA counterpart.

The Tigers scored the only goal of the first period before OSU’s Johann Kroll tied the game with the lone goal of the second period, set up by Kenny Bernard and Kyle Hood. The Tigers regained the one-goal lead with a score by Brett Sterling 9:47 into the third, but Collins scored at 15:33 for the 2-all tie. The game went to overtime, but neither team was able to score.

To determine the tournament winner, a shootout was held following the 5-minute overtime. CC scored on three of five chances, while OSU went 2-for-5, to give the Tigers the inaugural tournament trophy.

Rocky Mountain High
The games vs. Colorado College this weekend are Ohio State’s first contests in the state of Colorado since the 1994 Denver Cup. In that tournament, the Buckeyes lost to the Pioneers, 5-3, Dec. 28, 1994, and beat Air Force, 7-4, Dec. 29, 1994, in Denver.

A Look at the Tigers
Colorado College opened the year by winning the Ice Breaker tournament on their home ice, downing Union in the opener Friday, 6-1, and beating Maine in overtime, 3-2, Saturday in the championship. The Tigers closed out the weekend with an exhibition tie vs. Lakehead, 5-5, Sunday.

Sophomore Derek Patrosso had a team-best four goals and is tied with senior Brett Sterling with a team-best five points through two games. Junior defenseman Lee Sweatt has a team-best four assists.

In net, junior Matt Zaba played in both games, posting a 1.71 goals-against average, 44 saves and a .932 save percentage with a 2-0 record.

The Tigers converted 2-of-14 power-play chances (14.3 percent) in the Ice Breaker and stopped 9-of-12 opponent chances (75 percent).

Last season, CC was 31-9-3, tied Denver for the WCHA title with a 19-7-2 league ledger and reached the NCAA Frozen Four played in Value City Arena in Columbus. The Tigers had two of the three Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalists last season in Brett Sterling and Marty Sertich, with Sertich winning the trophy.

Scott Owens, a 1979 graduate of Colorado College, is in his seventh year at the helm of his alma mater and as a collegiate head coach. He is 155-76-18 in his career.

Open it Up
All-time, Ohio State is 22-18-2 in regular-season openers. The Buckeyes are looking to stop a streak of three-consecutive losses and a four-game winless streak in season openers. The team fell to New Hampshire in the Ice Breaker Tournament last season, to Denver at the Lefty McFadden Invitational in 2003-04 and to Minnesota in the 2002 Hockey Hall of Fame Game. Ohio State tied Notre Dame at home in 2001-02.

OSU’s last win in a season opener was in the 2000-01 campaign, a 5-3 victory on the road at Northern Michigan. The series at NMU also was the last time Ohio State opened the year with a two-game road series.

Hit the Road
The games at Colorado College mark the first of three consecutive road games for the Buckeyes to open the season. Ohio State travels north to take on Bowling Green Oct. 20 before the home opener Oct. 21 vs. the Falcons in Value City Arena. In all, six of the Buckeyes’ first seven games are away from Value City Arena this season.

Vs. the WCHA
The Buckeyes are 11-30-3 all-time against teams currently in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Ohio State was 1-1-1 vs. WCHA squads last year, with a loss to St. Cloud State in the Ice Breaker Tournament Oct. 10, 2004, in Durham, N.H., beat Minnesota State 5-1 in the Ohio Hockey Classic Dec. 29, 2004, and tied Colorado College Dec. 30, 2004, 2-2.

The Buckeyes will face a second WCHA squad during the 2005-06 season when they take on Wisconsin Feb. 11, 2006 in the Frozen Tundra Classic/Hockey Hall of Fame Game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

CCHA vs. the WCHA
The Buckeyes are one of three CCHA teams facing WCHA opponents in a two-game series this weekend. Alaska Fairbanks travels for a two-game set at No. 1 Minnesota and Northern Michigan hosts St. Cloud State for two games.

The History
The Buckeyes are entering their 43rd season as a varsity program. The squad is 677-683-95 all-time. The squad has posted four consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins, marking a first in program history. Under 11th-year head coach John Markell, the Buckeyes have six seasons with 20 or more wins.

Special Special Teams
Against Western Ontario last Saturday, the Buckeyes were 4-for-11 (36.4 percent) on the power play and stopped the Mustangs on all six power-play chances. Last year, the Buckeyes were first in the CCHA and fifth in the country on the PK and second in the league and eighth in the nation on the PP.

With the Best
The Buckeyes ended 2004-05 as the only team in the nation ranked in the Top 9 in all six categories ranked by the NCAA – penalty killing (5th/.870), winning percentage (6th/.690), scoring margin (8th/1.1), power-play percentage (8th/.219), scoring offense (8th/3.38) and scoring defense (9th/2.29). In the CCHA, OSU was in the Top 3 in four team categories – goals for and against per game, power play and penalty killing, both overall and in CCHA games only. The Buckeyes were the only team to rank among the Top 3 in all eight categories.

Preseason Predictions
Ohio State was picked to finish first in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association by both the coaches and the media.

It was the highest preseason ranking for OSU in the history of the polls. Ohio State’s previous high was the second-place rating entering the 1998-99 season after the Buckeyes reached the 1998 NCAA Frozen Four.

This season, OSU was the unanimous choice among the coaches, receiving all 11 first-place votes (coaches can not vote for their own teams).

In the media poll, the Buckeyes picked up 47-of-54 first-place votes.

Michigan and Northern Michigan followed the Buckeyes in second and third place, respectively, in both polls.

Buckeyes to Watch For
A league-best six Buckeyes were named to the Preseason All-CCHA teams. Senior forward Rod Pelley and senior goalie Dave Caruso were first-team choices, senior defenseman Nate Guenin and sophomore forward Tom Fritsche were named to the second team and junior defenseman Sean Collins and junior forward Mathieu Beaudoin were honorable mention choices.

No other team had more than two players named to the first, second and honorable mention teams combined.

Caruso was a Preseason Second Team All-American by both Inside College Hockey and USCHO.com. Fritsche was a INCH Preseason All-America Third Team choice. Pelley was an honorable mention All-USCHO selection. Guenin was named a Preseason First Team All-American by collegehockeynews.com.

A Quick Recap
The Buckeyes were 27-11-4 last season and earned an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season. The team finished second in the CCHA regular-season standing with a 21-5-2 ledger (its highest finish in over 20 years) and was the runner-up in the CCHA Super Six tournament.

Who’s Back
The Buckeyes return 21-of-24 letterwinners and 23-of-26 players from the 2004-05 team.

The team returns its Top 6 scorers and 92.1 percent of its points from last season, as well as 90.8 percent of its goals.

Sophomore Tom Fritsche led the team in assists (34) and points (45) last season, while junior Mathieu Beaudoin (23) and senior Rod Pelley (22) were first and second in goals. Pelley also ranked second in points with 41. Junior Sean Collins led the OSU defensemen in scoring with 26 points.

In all, the Buckeyes return eight of nine players that scored 20 or more points last season and five of six players with double-digit goals last season.

The Breakdown
The Buckeye roster contains four seniors, nine juniors, a CCHA-high 11 sophomores and a league-low two freshmen.

Who’s New
There are three new faces on the Buckeye roster this season – freshman forwards Nick Biondo and Corey Elkins and junior transfer Tommy Goebel. Goebel is unable to play for Ohio State this season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Who’s Gone
The three seniors from the 2004-05 squad – captain JB Bittner, Lee Spector and Thomas Welsh – all finished their eligibility last season. All three have earned their degrees from OSU, with Spector graduating in the spring and Bittner and Welsh earning their degrees in the summer. The class was the first in OSU history to have at least 20 wins in all four years and to reach the NCAA tournament three times.

Over the Summer
Ohio State sophomore Tom Fritsche was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft with the 47th overall pick. He is the first second-round choice in OSU history and the fourth-highest Buckeye draft pick, behind only first-round choices R.J. Umberger, Ryan Kesler and Dave Steckel.

Buckeye sophomores Fritsche, Ian Keserich and Domenic Maiani participated in the 2005 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. The trio helped Team USA combine for a 7-1 record vs. Finland and Sweden.

The camp included 42 under-20 athletes eligible for a spot on the 2006 U.S. National Junior Team, with the athletes split into two teams (Blue and White).

Leading the Way
Senior Nate Guenin, an alternate captain for the Buckeyes the last two seasons, was voted team captain by his teammates for the 2005-06 campaign. Guenin takes over the captaincy from two-time leader JB Bittner, who completed his eligibility in 2004-05. The duo grew up playing hockey together in Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Hornets junior hockey organization.

Senior Rod Pelley is in his second year as an alternate captain, while junior Sean Collins is in his first year wearing the `A’.

Record Watch
Senior defenseman Nate Guenin has 313 career penalty minutes, nine behind 10th-place Hugh Prentice (1971-74).

Senior goalie Dave Caruso enters the year eighth in OSU history in career wins (39), fourth in career shutouts (6) and first in career goals-against average (2.03).

Shooting For 20
The Buckeyes are looking to extend their streak of seasons with 20 or more wins to five, after setting the program record with its fourth in a row last season. The school’s 27 wins last season tied for the second-most in program history.

Tracking Former Buckeyes
A number of former Buckeyes have continued their hockey careers in the professional ranks. Ryan Kesler made the roster of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. R.J. Umberger was the last player sent down from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL), the team Umberger won the Calder Cup with last season. Eric Meloche also is on the Phantoms roster this season. Dave Steckel also was one of the last players sent down from the Washington Capitals to the Hershey Bears of the AHL.

Three former Buckeyes are playing for the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL – Doug Andress, Paul Caponigri and JB Bittner.

All-American Jeff Maund is playing in Austria, while two-time All-American Hugo Boisvert is playing in Germany.

Up Next
The Buckeyes begin Central Collegiate Hockey Association play with a home-and-home series with Bowling Green. The squad will take on the Falcons at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20 in the BGSU Ice Arena and then open up the home slate at 7:05 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 in Value City Arena.