Ohio State scoring star RYAN DZINGEL (18) turns the corner on Penn State defenseman NATE JENSEN (24) during the consolation match of the inaugural Three Rivers Classic holiday tournament at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, thirteen months ago.
The OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (12-9-1) clearly have everything to play for when the visiting PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (4-15-1) pay a visit to the True Value Center in Columbus this weekend. Aside from the built-in rivalry that always exists whenever two major academic institutions from bordering states get together and drop the puck, rookie head coach STEVE ROHLIK’s squad should already be sufficiently motivated to do well because The Ohio State University has, in fact, chosen this particular series against the neighboring Pennsylvania State University to highlight the school’s celebration of its 50th season playing NCAA Division I ice hockey. Furthermore, not only could the Buckeyes gain a measure of revenge for last season’s 5-4 loss to the fledgling Nittany Lions in Pittsburgh, Ohio State could also potentially vault into third place in the Big Ten Conference standings by sweeping developing Penn State on home ice.
Not so shabby of a position to be in for an Ohio State side that lost its first three games to open this season and has already used no fewer than four different goaltenders, three of whom are unproven freshman. The Buckeyes are rather well stocked with a rich junior class including legitimate Hobey Baker Memorial Award candidate RYAN DZINGEL and are primarily powered by a high octane offense which is currently tied for fifth place in the entire country with the per game average of 3.50 goals scored. The Ohio State defense, meanwhile, has conceded only one goal (against against Big Ten adversaries Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin) in three of its last five games and looks to continue that sort of good form against a lightweight Penn State squad that is ranked 50th out of 59 Division I teams in goal-scoring this season.
Rohlik has deployed several different forward line combinations so far this season but the engine that drives the Buckeyes’ offensive attack is, without question, Dzingel (22 ga, 14 go, 30 pts), the 21-year-old junior from Wheaton, Illinois, who led Ohio State with both 16 goals and 38 points in 40 NCAA games as a sophomore last season. The Buckeyes’ scoring ace is noted for his good speed and menacing shot but is also quite capable of performing in the playmaker’s role, as well. Certainly, the Penn State defensive corps will need to be cognizant of the player who was the seventh round selection (# 204 overall) of the Ottawa Senators at the 2011 National Hockey League Draft at all times, whether the ever-dangerous Dzingel is positioned in the center or, as if often the case, out on the left wing.
Left wing MAX MCCORMICK (22 ga, 7 go, 21 pts), the 21-year-old junior from De Pere, Wisconsin, who was the sixth round choice (# 177 overall) of the Ottawa Senators at the 2011 NHL Draft, is the second-leading scorer for Ohio State this term but is, at present, in the midst of an eight-game goalless streak. McCormick had been spending most of his time this season on a line with Canadian legionnaires ALEX SZCZECHURA (22 ga, 6 go, 19 pts), the highly experienced, 23-year-old senior center from Brantford, Ontario, and creative right wing TANNER FRITZ (17 ga, 3 go, 19 pts), the 22-year-old junior from Fort St. John, British Columbia. The slumping trio was broken up last Saturday night when the Buckeyes knocked off # 9 ranked Wisconsin 3-1 in Madison but could be re-united when the Nittany Lions hit the Value City Arena’s ice at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.
Ohio State left wing MAX MCCORMICK (17) was the second-leading marksman for the Buckeyes last season having found the back of the net fifteen times and currently counts 32 goals and 74 points in 89 career NCAA games.
NICK ODDO (22 ga, 7 go, 22 pts), the 23-year-old junior center from Omaha, Nebraska, is enjoying a breakout campaign and has already scored as many goals this season as he did in his first two campaigns at Ohio State put together. Oddo, who has often been featuring on a line with the prolific Dzingel this term and tallied a vital goal in the upset victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, is just one ten juniors on the roster of a Buckeyes team that finished with a record of 16 wins against 17 losses with seven draws last season. Canadian legionnaire CHAD NIDDERY (18 ga, 4 go, 4 pts), the 23-year-old center from Penticton, British Columbia, in addition to rugged MATT JOHNSON (19 ga, 2 go, 5 pts), the 22-year-old right wing from Stillwater, Minnesota, are still two more juniors who bring a fair amount of valuable experience to the checking line’s table.
DARIK ANGELI (21 ga, 6 go, 10 pts), the 23-year-old junior right wing from Lakewood, Colorado, who also scored a goal in Ohio State’s noteworthy triumph in Madison last weekend, has rebounded from a lackluster sophomore campaign and often skates with center TYLER LUNDEY (22 ga, 4 go, 7 pts), the 22-year-old sophomore from Middleton, Wisconsin, who has now equaled his goal production from his freshman term. The diminutive ANTHONY GRECO (18 ga, 2 go, 10 pts), a useful 20-year-old sophomore winger from Fairbault, Minnesota, is one of many Buckeyes who have already established new career marks on the scoring charts this season or are about to do so very soon. Reliable veteran ALEX LIPPINCOTT (11 ga, 1 go, 0 as), the 21-year-old homegrown senior from Akron, is one of only three Ohio State skaters on this year’s team who have appeared in more than 100 NCAA contests in his career.
The prize freshman recruit for the first-year head coach Rohlik has been versatile NICK SCHILKEY (22 ga, 8 go, 15 pts), the 19-year-old from Marysville, Michigan, who notched a goal in each game against Wisconsin last weekend and, indeed, has shown himself to be one of the very best newcomers in the entire Big Ten Conference up to this point. Undersized freshman DAVID GUST (14 ga, 5 go, 9 pts), the 19-year-old from Orland Park, Illinois, has been coming on like gangbusters as of late for the Buckeyes after being used sparsely at the beginning of this season. The emerging Gust has scored four goals in Ohio State’s last nine games and skated on a line with the explosive Dzingel against the Badgers this past Saturday night.
Ohio State defenseman CRAIG DALRYMPLE (24), the 22-year-old sophomore from Kippen, Ontario, who has now recorded impressive totals of 23 points and a + 17 plus/minus defensive rating after his first 50 career NCAA games for the Buckeyes, has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury and could very well miss the upcoming two-game series with neighboring Big Ten Conference rival Penn State in Columbus.
The Buckeyes defensive corps, goaltenders notwithstanding, has been forced to withstand a seemingly never-ending string of injuries all throughout this 2013/14 NCAA campaign. Ohio State skated in Wisconsin without their two most productive blueliners from last term —Canadian legionnaires CRAIG DALRYMPLE (14 ga, 0 go, 6 pts, + 11 def rat) as well as CURTIS GEDIG (20 ga, 1 go, 4 pts, + 5 def rat), the 22-year-old senior from West Kelowna, British Columbia, who was the seventh round pick (# 204 overall) of the New Jersey Devils at the 2009 NHL Draft and is the most experienced Buckeyes player on the roster with 120 career NCAA games (6 go, 45 pts, + 12 def rat) already under his belt. The monstrous Dalrymple (6’5″ 215 lbs) led all Ohio State defenders in scoring with 17 points (three goals) a year ago but been out of action for the last three games.
Canadian legionnaire SAM JARDINE (21 ga, 0 go, 8 pts, + 2 def rat), the improving 20-year-old sophomore from Lacombe, Alberta, who was chosen in the sixth round (# 169 overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft by the Chicago Black Hawks, is the most promising professional prospect on the Buckeyes’ roster, at least in terms of overall draft status. DREW BREVIG (19 ga, 2 go, 10 pts), the 21-year-old freshman from Lakeville, Minnestoa, has been the highest scoring rearguard for Ohio State thus far while Canadian legionnaire JUSTIN DASILVA (19 ga, 4 go, 8 pts, -1 def rat), the monstrous (6’6″ 222 lbs) junior from Cambridge, Ontario, has suddenly found an ability to find the back of the net with unprecedented regularity. Also contributing on the Buckeyes’ blue line has been Canadian legionnaire JOSH HEALEY (18 ga, 1 go, 3 pts, + 1 def rat), the 20-year-old freshman from Edmonton, Alberta.
AL MCLEAN (16 ga, 0 go, 1 pts, – 4 def rat), the 23-year-old junior from Duluth, Minnesota, as well as CLARK CRISTOFOLI (5 ga, 0 go, 0 pts, + 1 def rat), the 21-year-old homegrown junior from Lewis Center whose father, Ed Cristofoli, appeared briefly with the storied Montreal Canadiens in the vaunted National Hockey League almost a quarter century ago now, provide depth on defense.
In the consolation match with Penn State at the inaugural Three Rivers Classic holiday tournament in Pittsburgh last season, Ohio State elected to rest its senior goaltender who would ultimately be honored as the NCAA (West) First Team All-America and opted to start its freshman backup instead. Thirteen months later, as events have progressed in Columbus, the Buckeyes now have a trio of freshman netminders from which to choose. Canadian legionnaire MATT TOMKINS (13 ga, 2.66 avg, .912 svpct), the 19-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alberta, who was tabbed in the seventh round (# 199 overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Chicago Black Hawks, and brand new recruit CHRISTIAN FREY (4 ga, 2.54 avg, .923 svpct), the 20-year-old from Arlington, Texas, who was only just recently standing between the pipes for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League, will likely split the goaltending load, as they have been doing for the past couple of series.
Ohio State third-string netminder LOGAN DAVIS (5 ga, 2.21 avg, .909 svpct), the 19-year-old homegrown freshman from Upper Arlington, started four games in succession for head coach Steve Rohlik’s depleted squad earlier this season after one Buckeyes goaltender went down injured not so long after another had decided to leave school suddenly.