November 18, 2004
All The Young Dudes

By Mike Eidelbes

 CCHA Notebook

Freshman Tom Fritsche leads Ohio State with 15 points all assists.

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”…and a little child shall lead them.” – Isaiah 11:6

With a gaggle of seniors from last season’s CCHA playoff championship team departed, Ohio State hockey fans may have thought divine intervention would be necessary for the Buckeyes to reach the previous year’s heights. After all, coach John Markell needed to rebuild with members of his 11-man freshman class.

You can win with freshmen in the lineup. But you’re not supposed to win when rookies make up more than half of the lineup.

That’s the case in Columbus, however. Ohio State, fresh off an impressive sweep of Northern Michigan at Value City Arena, leads the nation with nine victories and is 9-1-0 in its last 10 games. Naturally, the freshmen have done more than play supporting roles during the Bucks’ six-week run.

“With 10, 11 of us on the roster, we have to do it,” said first-year forward Tom Fritsche, OSU’s leading scorer with 15 points. “We’re half the team.”

Well, almost half. Against the Wildcats, the Buckeyes had eight freshmen on the ice each night and each night, they earned their keep. On Saturday, forward Dominic Maiani scored a key insurance goal midway through the third period of OSU’s 2-0 victory. In Sunday’s series finale, Sam Campbell scored two goals and Ian Keserich stopped 31 shots in a 5-1 win.

“Our confidence is high, but we know at any time, anyone can beat us,” said Fritsche, a Parma, Ohio, native whose brother, Dan, was a second-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2003 and played 19 games in the NHL last season. “The first weekend, we lost two games. After that, we settled down and started winning.”

Not only are the rookies winning, but they’re contributing. To wit: Maiani, Fritsche’s linemate, is the Buckeyes’ second-leading scorer with 14 points. The other member of the Fritsche line, John Dingle, has three goals in nine games. Offensive-minded defenseman Kyle Hood, who scored 66 points for the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the British Columbia Hockey League last season, has 1-5—6 in 10 games. Defenseman Jason DeSantis, meanwhile, is tied for second on the team with a +6 plus-minus rating.

According to Fritsche, being part of a large freshman class has made the transition to the college game a little easier to handle.

“You’re not afraid,” said Fritsche, acknowledging the strength in numbers. “You’ve always got someone else there with you. But as it’s gone on, the team has come together as one.”

Should the freshmen maintain their level of play, who knows where the Buckeyes could be headed? Their path could end in their home rink in April.


Welcome Back, Potter –
Michigan State, which enters this week’s pivotal series with Michigan on a four-game unbeaten streak, bolstered its lineup last weekend when junior defenseman Corey Potter played in his first game of the season.

Potter, the team’s top defensive rearguard and its best penalty killer, showed no ill effects from the shoulder separation that forced him to miss the Spartans’ first eight contests. He couldn’t have picked a better weekend to make his return, what with physically imposing Cornell the opponent.

”It was a great game to come back to,” said the 6-foot-3 Potter, a member of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at last year’s World Junior Championship. “There was a lot of crashing, a lot of hitting. That’s my kind of style of play.”

“He’s such a warrior out there, and we missed that,” said MSU coach Rick Comley. “He takes the pressure off so we can cut back [defenseman A.J. Thelen’s] ice time. [A.J.] has played a ton every night.”

Potter’s return helps Comley from spreading minutes too thin among his defensemen. It also gives the Spartans a physical, veteran presence on the blue line just in time for a crucial string of games – after this week’s Michigan series, MSU travels to Minnesota and Wisconsin for the College Hockey Showcase, then meets rapidly improving Bowling Green in a home-and-home set the first weekend of December.

“It’s not a lot of fun sitting out,” Potter said. “You’ve got to watch the team go through the highs and lows of winning and losing. When you’re up in the stands, you want to be out there and contribute. It wasn’t fun, but it’s great to be back.”

Scouts' Honor –
The National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Service released its preliminary list of top prospects for the 2005 Entry Draft – assuming there is one – this week. Ten current CCHA players are included among the top 30 college prospects, including three of the top four.

Michigan forward T.J. Hensick is the second-rated prospects according to the CSS, trailing only Boston College forward Dan Bertram. Bowling Green defenseman Jonathan Sigalet ranks third, with Miami forward Nathan Davis fourth.

Bowling Green forward Jonathan Matsumoto is listed as the 11th-best prospect on the CSS list. He’s followed by Notre Dame forward Evan Rankin (13th), Ohio State forward Tom Fritsche (17th), Western Michigan forward Paul Szczechura (20th), Michigan State forwards Chris Mueller (22nd) and Bryan Lerg (27th) and Bowling Green forward James Unger (30th).

Seven CCHA recruits are also ranked, led by MSU-bound forward Justin Abdelkader, who now plays for the United States Hockey League's Cedar Rapids Roughriders, and future Notre Dame goalie Jordan Pearce, a member of the USHL's Lincoln Stars.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Michigan vs. Michigan State (Thurs.-Sat.)
Do you even need a set-up for this home-and-home series that starts in East Lansing tonight? And if you do, are you sure you’re visiting the correct Web site? Rather than focus on the who’s, what’s and where’s, imagine this scenario – a Michigan State sweep coupled with an Ohio State win against the Michigan football team in Columbus. If that were to happen, Ann Arbor would look like a set from ‘Planet of the Apes’ Sunday morning, except residents would be rummaging through rubble in search of a latte.

While you’re there: If you’re really bored Friday, you could duck in on basketball games in East Lansing and Ann Arbor. The Spartans open the regular season against Florida A&M, while the Wolverines welcome Sacramento State to Crisler Arena. Instead of dropping 20 bucks a ticket to watch a Big Ten team drop the hammer on a sacrificial lamb, you could find a sports bar, slip the barkeep a fin and get him to switch the satellite over to the Minnesota-Denver hockey game on Fox Sports Net North.

Stick Salute

The normally sedate Munn Ice Arena crowd – most of whom have received birthday wishes from Willard Scott – was jolted into action by a small, but vocal, group of Lynah Faithful that descended on East Lansing for Cornell’s series with Michigan State. MSU captain Jim Slater told reporters after the game that when Faithful shouted ‘RED!’ during their well-known national anthem ritual, he looked around the arena trying to figure out what was going on.

Bench Minor

Arguably the greatest invention of my lifetime, TiVo bowed to pressure from advertisers this week, announcing viewers will no longer be able to fast-forward through commercials embedded in programs they’ve digitally record. Starting in March, most viewers who fast-forward through programs will see small pop-up billboards or logos related to the brands represented in some of the ads. Makes one want to chuck their home theatre system and replace it with the old, 19-inch, black-and-white, rabbit-eared model your grandparents had…the one you needed a set of pliers to change the channel.


• Friday’s Michigan State-Cornell game was more than just an entertaining non-conference match; there was a postseason-type atmosphere at Munn Ice Arena, one not seen for a regular-season game since co-No. 1’s Minnesota and Michigan State skated to a 4-4 draw in 2001.

“The crowd was great, there was a buzz in the building right away, and there was great hockey right away,” MSU coach Rick Comley said. “I think the message we send to ourselves – coaches and players – is, that [style of play is] us…let’s show it every night.”

• Following Friday’s game, the Spartans were still talking about Cornell goaltender David McKee’s sterling, 36-save effort. Senior forward Ash Goldie, who scored MSU’s lone goal that night, said McKee’s performance bordered on the ridiculous.

“One save he made…it was the one where [linemate David Booth] hit the post, hit McKee’s back and then came around,” Goldie said. “I don’t know how it ended up in his glove. I started laughing out there. I couldn’t believe it.”

Forgive Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Chris Holt if he was distracted during last weekend’s series against visiting Bowling Green. His idol, Jordan Sigalet, was in the other goal.

Both Sigalet and Holt hail from the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, B.C., and the UNO sophomore acknowledged he mimicked Sigalet’s every move as he climbed the ranks.

“Our goalie coach would always say, ‘Watch Jordan. Watch Jordan. Everybody needs to be more like Jordan,’ Holt said to the Omaha World Herald. “I think he’s the best goaltender in the nation. He is the backbone of their team.’’

• Contrary to author Thomas Wolfe’s opinion, you can go home again. Just ask Notre Dame freshman forward Evan Rankin.

Rankin scored the game-tying goal in the Fighting Irish’s 2-2 draw against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo Friday, and assisted on Notre Dame’s first marker in his team’s 3-2 win over the host Broncos the following night. A native of nearby Portage, Mich., Rankin learned to skate at WMU’s Lawson Ice Arena. He leads Notre Dame rookies in scoring with three goals and two assists in 10 games.

• Among the most recent locked-out NHLers to join teams in European leagues are a pair of former CCHA All-Americans. Former Michigan goalie Marty Turco, now with the Dallas Stars, and ex-Miami defenseman Dan Boyle, who won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay last season, have signed to play with Djurgarden, the eighth-place team in the 12-team Swedish Elite League. According to, 11 NHLers with CCHA ties are currently playing in Europe.

• It’s a milestone moment at Miami this weekend. When the RedHawks entertain Western Michigan at Goggin Ice Arena Saturday, it’ll be the 1,000th game in Miami hockey history.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report

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