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Oct. 5, 2005

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Faceoff
The No. 3/5 Ohio State men’s hockey opens the 2005-06 campaign with an exhibition game against Western Ontario at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Value City Arena in Columbus. Admission is free.

The game will be broadcast by the Underground, the Ohio State student radio station, online at www.underground.fm.

The team’s regular season begins with a two-game series at 2005 NCAA Frozen Four participant Colorado College Oct. 14-15.

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.

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

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.

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 defensemen 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.

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. The team finished second in the CCHA regular-season standing with a 21-5-2 ledger 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.

The Breakdown
The Buckeye roster contains four seniors, nine juniors, a league-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’.

Buckeyes vs. Mustangs
Ohio State is 8-2 all-time against Western Ontario, with the series stretching from 1972-1990. The squads last met Dec. 28, 1990 in the Riverfront Invitational in Cincinnati, a 5-3 UWO victory. OSU’s last wins against the school were Jan. 9-10, 1987, a two-game sweep (4-3, 7-0) in Columbus.

The Mustangs
Western Ontario has opened its season with three losses in exhibition games. The year began with a 4-1 loss to Brock, followed by a 1-1 record in a preseason tournament hosted by York. The Mustangs downed host York, 5-1, last Sunday, but lost to Ottawa, 5-4, Saturday.

The game vs. Ohio State is the first of five exhibition games for the Mustangs vs. NCAA Division I teams. UWO will face Ferris State Saturday, Michigan State Oct. 14, Clarkson Oct. 21 and St. Lawrence Oct. 22.

Up Next
The Buckeyes open the regular season against Colorado College. The teams will meet at 9:35 p.m. EDT Oct. 14 and at 9:05 p.m. EDT Oct. 15 at Colorado Springs World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Outlook
Expectations are high for the 2005-06 edition of the Ohio State men’s hockey team. The squad returns 21 letterwinners and 23 players from the squad last season that finished second in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and qualified for the NCAA tournament.

After having a successful season last year with a roster comprised of almost entirely underclassmen, including 11 freshmen, head coach John Markell is looking for the team to build on that experience. The now-veteran team, including four seniors and nine juniors, is ready to compete for a conference championship and a fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tourney.

Between The Pipes
Senior Dave Caruso, OSU’s all-time goals-against average leader, returns for his final year as a Buckeye after taking over as the starter last season. As a junior, Caruso set a program record with 25 wins and posted the second-best goals-against average for a single season (2.14), behind only the 1.97 he recorded in 2004.

Sophomore Ian Keserich, who played in six games as a freshman and posted a goals-against average of 2.42 and a 2-2 record, will push Caruso for the starting position.

Sophomore Phil Lauderdale, who practiced with the Buckeyes last season, also returns.

The D Corps
The Buckeyes return seven defensemen from the squad last year that was second in the CCHA and ninth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 2.29 goals a game.

The duo of senior captain Nate Guenin and junior alternate captain Sean Collins will be looked upon to lead the blueliners this season. Guenin, a 2005 All-CCHA Second Team selection and finalist for CCHA Best Defensive Defenseman honors, had 2-12-14 totals last season while playing in 41 games and led the squad with 136 penalty minutes. Collins was an honorable mention all-league choice, a finalist for CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman accolades and earned CCHA All-Tournament Team honors. He led the Buckeye defensemen and was fourth in the CCHA overall with 26 points, including nine goals.

Junior Matt Waddell was second for the Buckeyes with a +14 rating last season and ranked third among defensemen with 15 (2-13) points in 41 games. Classmate Tyson Strachan saw action in 31 games for the squad and recorded 1-4-5 totals and a +7 rating.

Three sophomores return with a year of collegiate action under their belts. Jason DeSantis (4-5) and Johann Kroll (3-4-7) played in all 42 games a year ago. A third sophomore, Kyle Hood, rounds out the returning defensemen. He saw action at both defense and forward last year and played the point on the power play, posting 5-16-21 totals and earning honorable mention CCHA All-Rookie Team honors. Sophomore Zach Pelletier, who played in one game at forward for the Buckeyes last season, will compete for playing time on the blueline this year.

Up Front
At forward, Ohio State returns its Top 5 scorers, all who posted more than 30 points in 2004-05. The team scored 142 goals last season (3.38 goals a game), the most for a Buckeye squad since the 1997 team scoring 147 and the second-highest total since 1989.

Leading the way is 2005 CCHA All-Rookie Team selection and Inside College Hockey National Freshman of the Year Tom Fritsche, the team’s leading scorer last season with 45 points, including a team-best 34 assists, and had a Buckeye-best +21 rating. His point total ranked sixth (tied) in the CCHA and tied him for the lead among the nation’s freshmen. Fritsche was drafted in the second round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche.

Junior Mathieu Beaudoin and senior Rod Pelley led the Buckeyes in goals last season with 23 and 22, respectively. They were the most productive goal-scoring tandem for OSU in seven years, becoming the first Buckeye duo to have at least 20 goals each since the 1998 squad had three 20-goal scorers. The duo also led the league in power-play goals, led by Beaudoin with 14 and Pelley with 13.

Last season, Pelley ranked second on the squad with a career-best 41 points while playing in 41 games. He enters his senior year with 74 (40-34) points in 126 career games. Beaudoin, the CCHA’s player of the month in January, was tied for fourth on the team with 34 (23-11) points as a sophomore.

Senior Dan Knapp was third in scoring on the team last season with a career-best 23 assists and 35 points in 40 games. Sophomore Domenic Maiani, an honorable mention CCHA All-Rookie Team choice, tied for fourth on the team in scoring with 34 points and was third in assists with 22.

Four other juniors return for the Buckeyes. Andrew Schembri (4-19-23) had a career-best 19 assists last season, while Bryce Anderson posted 8-10-18, marking career highs in all three categories, and was second on the team with three gamewinning goals. Kenny Bernard was limited to 25 games because of a leg injury and recorded 1-6-7. Dave Barton played in 19 games, posting two goals and six points.

Rounding out the returnees are sophomores John Dingle, Matt McIlvane and Sam Campbell. Dingle played in 21 games a year ago, scoring four goals and seven points, including the overtime gamewinning goal against Ferris State in game three of the first-round playoff series. McIlvane saw action in all 42 games, with a 1-5-6 line, and was a key part of the Ohio State penalty-killing unit. Campbell scored three goals in 12 games, while Pelletier played in one game for the Buckeyes.

Three newcomers join the squad for this season. Freshman Corey Elkins, from West Bloomfield, Mich., played with the Sioux City Musketeers last season, posting 19-23-42 in 58 regular-season games. Nick Biondo, a freshman from Parma, Ohio, played for the Cleveland Barons of the North American Hockey League last season, leading the team and all NAHL defensemen in scoring with 56 (21-35) points in 48 games. He will compete for playing time up front as a freshman this season.

Junior Tommy Goebel, who spent the last two seasons at Michigan State, will spend this year practicing with the Buckeyes but will not be able to play in games because of NCAA transfer rules. Goebel played in 41 games for the Spartans last season, scoring six goals and adding 15 assists.

Special Teams
The Buckeyes ranked in the Top 10 in the nation on both the power play and penalty kill last season and return the nucleus of both groups.

On the penalty kill, the Buckeyes finished last season ranked fifth in the nation and first in the CCHA, stopping 275-of-316 chances (87 percent), despite facing 38 more power plays than any other team in the nation. In conference play, the Buckeyes had an 88.7 percent success rate. OSU recorded eight shorthanded goals last year, led by three from Beaudoin.

On the power play, OSU converted 66-of-301 chances to rank second in the league and eighth in the nation with a 21.9 percent success rate. In league play, the Buckeyes were second, converting 23.8 percent of their opportunities. Beaudoin led the CCHA and was tied for second in the nation with 14 power-play goals, followed by Pelley with 13 to rank second in the league and fourth (tied) in the NCAA. Beaudoin and Pelley tied for the team lead with 22 power-play points, followed by Fritsche with 21 (5-16) and Knapp with 20 (8-12). Five other returning Buckeyes had double-digit power-play points a year ago.

Facing Off
The Buckeyes’ schedule this season is highlighted by 18 home games in Value City Arena, a game vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. and the Ohio Hockey Classic at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

The CCHA again will use clusters, with three groups of four teams, for scheduling. The teams that make up each cluster will face each other four times (twice at home and twice on the road). Each team will face the eight squads outside its cluster twice. The Buckeyes are joined by Miami, Notre Dame and Bowling Green in their 2005-06 cluster.

Before the December break, nine of the Buckeyes’ 17 games will be at home in Value City Arena. The squad opens the year with six of its first seven games on the road, including a season-opening series at 2005 NCAA Frozen Four participant Colorado College. However, the Buckeyes close out the first part of the year with 8-of-10 games at home, including two four-game homestands.

The team returns to action in the second annual Ohio Hockey Classic at Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Ohio State, the runner-up in the inaugural event, will take on Holy Cross on day one, with Miami facing off against Rensselaer. The winners and losers will meet on day two.

The Buckeyes open January with a home-and-home series against Bowling Green before a game with Miami and a series with Nebraska-Omaha at home. Following a trip to Alaska Fairbanks and a home series vs. the Irish, OSU travels to take on defending league champion Michigan.

The squad ends its season series with Michigan State Feb. 9 before heading to Green Bay, Wis., to take on Wisconsin of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in an outdoor game at Lambeau Field, home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, Feb. 11, in the Frozen Tundra Hockey Classic and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game. The matchup marks the second NCAA Division I men’s hockey outdoor game and the first since Michigan and Michigan State faced off in Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., to start the 2001-02 season.

OSU closes out the regular season with a single game at Miami and a series at Northern Michigan sandwiched around a home series with Ferris State.

The CCHA tournament format has been altered this season to add another round, while all 12 teams still qualify. In the opening round, the Top 4 teams from the regular season will have byes, with seeds 5-8 playing host to seed 9-12 in best-of-three series (12 at 5, 11 at 6, 10 at 7, 9 at 8). The four series winners will advance to take on the Top 4 seeds in best-of-three series. The winners will advance to the CCHA Championship at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to compete for the Mason Cup and the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Sign on the Dotted Line
Following the 2004-05 season, head coach John Markell received a new five-year contract. The contract replaced Markell’s current contract, which had one season remaining. Markell, who just completed his 10th full season at the helm of the Buckeyes, has led the squad to five NCAA tournament appearances, including in each of the last three seasons, and a NCAA Frozen Four berth in 1998.

“I’m excited to remain at Ohio State and in Columbus,” Markell said. “My family and I enjoy the Columbus area. We want to continue the relationships we’ve established over the last 12 years. Our staff has worked hard to move the program in the right direction. There is still work to be done, but we look forward to an exciting future for Ohio State hockey.

“I would like to thank (former athletics director) Andy Geiger and the OSU administration for the opportunity to coach at a premier institution like The Ohio State University. I appreciate the continued support of our program.”

Markell, who became OSU’s permanent head coach May 22, 1995, carries a 200-173-32 record into the 2005-06 season. He has a 141-124-26 ledger in Central Collegiate Hockey Association play. He has led the Buckeyes to the only NCAA tournament appearances in program history (1998, ’99, ’03, ’04, ’05) and guided the squad to the 2004 CCHA Super Six tournament title, the first league title for OSU since 1972.