Preview: Ohio Hockey Classic

Ohio Hockey Classic
Columbus, Ohio, Thursday-Friday, Dec. 29-30, 2005

Game 1: Rensselaer vs. No. 2 Miami, 5:05 p.m. ET

Rensselaer Engineers (8-6-3, 2-1-3 ECACHL)
Head coach: Dan Fridgen
Leading scorers: Sr. F Kevin Croxton (11-17–28), Jr. F Oren Eizenman (11-15–26), Sr. D Brad Farynuk (3-11–14)
Leading netminder: Fr. Mathias Lange (7-4-3, 2.57, .908)

Miami RedHawks (12-2-2, 10-1-1 CCHA)
Head coach: Enrico Blasi
Leading scorers: So. F Nathan Davis (8-7–15), Sr. D Andy Greene (6-9–15)
Leading netminders: So. Charlie Effinger (5-0-2, 1.40, .947), Fr. Jeff Zatkoff (7-2-0, 1.68, .936)

Game 2: Holy Cross at No. 19 Ohio State, 8:05 p.m. ET

Holy Cross Crusaders (9-3-1, 7-2-1 Atlantic Hockey)
Head coach: Paul Pearl
Leading scorers: Sr. F Pierre Napert-Frenette (7-11–18), Sr. F Tyler McGregor (11-6–17), Jr. D Jon Landry (3-9–12)
Leading netminder: Sr. Tony Quesada (6-2-1, 2.32, .924)

Ohio State Buckeyes (9-6-2, 6-4-1 CCHA)
Head coach: John Markell
Leading scorers: So. F Tom Fritsche (6-11–17), Jr. F Andrew Schembri (5-9–14), Jr. F Mathieu Beaudoin (6-7–13)
Leading netminder: Sr. Dave Caruso (7-5-2, 1.97, .909)

Tournament outlook: This year’s edition of the Ohio Hockey Classic features a pair of interesting matchups, starting with a pair of feel-good stories in Rensselaer and Miami. The Engineers have displayed plenty of offense and impressive performances from rookie netminder Mathias Lange in the first half of a season in which they were picked to finish ninth in the ECACHL by the coaches; but they have been inconsistent, losing to Sacred Heart as well as potential Friday opponent Holy Cross. Meanwhile, RPI’s first-round opponent, Miami, has lost just once since dropping its season opener against North Dakota. The CCHA-leading RedHawks have stymied opponents with a stifling defense led by Andy Greene and the one-two netminding punch of Charlie Effinger and Jeff Zatkoff, both of whom are among the nation’s statistical leaders. Miami’s scoring defense is No. 2 nationally, as is its penalty kill. Both figures match the RedHawks’ national ranking in the poll entering the holidays.

The other semifinal pits host Ohio State of the CCHA against Holy Cross. The Buckeyes put together a stop-and-start first half that included a one-point home weekend against Alabama-Huntsville after beginning the season high in the national polls, and as the coaches’ preseason favorite in the league. Offense has been up-and-down, with only Tom Fritsche (absent this week during his stint at the World Junior Championship) averaging a point per game, as the Buckeyes have played just well enough to barely lose some winnable games. Underappreciated Dave Caruso has again been a rock in net. The Crusaders, on the other hand, have been the poster child for Atlantic Hockey’s increasing competitiveness outside the league, with wins against Massachusetts and RPI on its ledger. (Holy Cross also hung a ten-spot on AHA co-favorite Mercyhurst midway through the first half.) Special teams have been sterling for the Crusaders, who sport a 22.2 percent conversion rate on the power play and a 90.8 percent kill efficiency.