Oct. 6, 2005

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.