November 8, 2006
Who Are You Calling Short-Handed?

By James Jahnke

Nathan Davis may have set Miami's school record for career short-handed goals with his ninth last weekend, but don't call him a good penalty killer. He wouldn't hear of it.

CCHA Notebook

Miami's Nathan Davis is the program's all-time leader in short-handed goals, but he doesn't think of himself as a very good penalty killer.

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"To be honest, I could be a lot better," Davis said with a twinge of guilt. "My first thought when I'm out there is, 'How can I turn this into offense?' I get away with it a lot of the time, but I rely on the guys I kill with quite a bit. They really cover for me."

So Davis is concerned with finding an opportunity to leak out of the zone more than throwing his body in front of a slap shot at the point. The idea might make coaches recoil in horror, but Davis has had enough offensive success on the PK that there won't be any complaints in Oxford. Davis has three shorties among his nine goals and nation-leading 21 points this season, and he had a hand in all seven of the RedHawks' goals in a split with Northern Michigan last weekend.

Miami's penalty kill is aggressive by nature, with hard forechecking and pressure at the points the main components of the system. Davis has thrived all over the ice, getting some of his SHGs off of hard forechecks by longtime linemate and kill partner Ryan Jones, getting some by stripping an opponent at the point and going on a breakaway, and some off of home-run passes by teammate who know what's on Davis' mind.

"It's all part of the system," Davis said. "It's a feel thing. If, within the system, you can trust that the other three guys are where they need to be, you can look to cheat up.

"Without giving away too much, sometimes you know what the other forward is going to do and I can take off and look for a breakaway pass."

Davis, who missed Tuesday's practice with the flu but should be good to go this weekend, credits assistant coaches Jeff Blashill and Chris Bergeron for coming up with the "well-designed" penalty-killing system, and he credits his teammates for being smart enough and hard-working enough to execute it. Davis said he also watches tape of opponents' power plays to get a feel for how they move the puck.

It all adds up to nine short-handed goals, breaking the Miami record held by current Flyer Randy Robitaille.

"Any offense you can have on the penalty kill will frustrate teams a little bit," Davis said. "I know if I'm on the power play and the other team has the puck in our end, it's incredibly frustrating. It takes a lot of work, but it's worth it to take out a team's power play."


Laker playmaker: Davis and the RedHawks will travel to Lake Superior State this weekend for a pair of games against another hot scorer with a familiar first name, Lakers rookie Nathan Perkovich. The freshman had his six-game goal-scoring streak stopped Saturday at Bowling Green, but he still leads the team with six markers.

The big-bodied net crasher from Canton, Mich., is an example of the offense-minded players coach Jim Roque has started luring to campus.

"He's a good skater for his size," Roque said of the 6-foot-5 Devils draft pick. "He uses his reach to get to pucks that maybe a 5-foot-11 player wouldn't be able to get to. The puck comes off the goalie and he can get to it and put it in. He likes to play in front of the net and score goals. He's a good shooter. I think all of his goals have come from about 10 to 15 feet this season."

But don't expect to see Perkovich and Davis matched up very often this weekend. Roque plans to take advantage of the last change to gain favorable matchups against Davis. A good bet is that Davis will see a lot of LSSU's senior line of Dan Eves, Jeff Rainville and Derek R. Smith.

Systemic solutions: Ohio State coach John Markell hopes less is more for his Buckeyes. After a decisive sweep at the hands of Minnesota last month, Markell stashed the more complex defensive scheme he hoped to implement this season and reverted to the system the team had used previously.

After giving up 20 goals in the first four games, OSU has given up just nine in the four dates since the switch, leaving Markell with no plans to shake things up again.

"We had too many guys who had played under the old system, and they fell back into it," Markell said. "We decided it would be better to protect our young goalies and go back to the old way. You can't have guys coming through the middle all night, so we're back to covering the weakside winger through the neutral zone, and we hope to execute it even better."

The tightened defense hasn't done much for OSU in the standings, however, as the Buckeye offense seems stuck in the same malaise as last season. It should be buoyed by the return of Tommy Goebel, who has four goals in four games, sandwiched around a four-plus-game hiatus with an upper-body contusion. Tom Fritsche (ulcerative colitis) also could be coming to the rescue, as Markell said a January return by the team's top player isn't out of the question.

This week, the Buckeyes face Western Michigan. The Thursday game is at Value City Arena, but the Friday contest will be at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, where the Buckeyes haven't played since 1997-98. OSU's men's basketball team is using the VCA for the Black Coaches Association Classic.


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Miami at Lake Superior State

LSSU freshman defenseman Ryan Baird has been cleared to play for the first time this year after a preseason shoulder injury, which should help a Lakers defensive corps that found itself short-handed at Bowling Green. This is only Miami's second venture away from the luxurious Steve Cady Arena this season, but it's only Lake State's second weekend at home. It will be interesting to see who adjusts quickest.

While you’re there: If you're inclined to skip the opener, Friday is the 31st anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald maritime disaster, and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum's annual memorial service will be at 7 p.m. in Whitefish Point, about an hour west of the Soo. The public is welcome, but seating is limited.

Stick Salute

Ohio State sports information director Leann Parker, who would be on the all-CCHA SID team if there were one, gave birth to her first child, Devin Parker, on Oct. 28. Mommy and baby are home, doing fine and ready for a few months off before returning to Value City Arena (Leann, that is).

Bench Minor

Putting away the whistle this week. Good job, everyone!

• Check out Campus Cribs, Miami hockey style, on The best part of the house shared by Davis, Brad Robbins and Charley Fetzer? Tough call between the bottle-cap table, hockey-stick mailbox and life's supply of Jif peanut butter.

• Michigan coach Red Berenson's son Gordie, 41, suffered a closed-head injury in an ATV accident near his Michigan home on Sunday. The Livingston Daily Press & Argus reported that the younger Berenson was found lying in a ravine 20-30 feet below the road by a jogger. A cause has yet to be determined. Berenson said in a release that Gordie had surgery, and his "improvement has been dramatic. ... We are confident that he will make a complete recovery."

• Michigan State has rotated an impressive number of forwards through its third and fourth lines this season. Asked whether he was close to settling on forwards Nos. 7 through 12, coach Rick Comley deadpanned, "We're still working on seven through nine." Comley said there's not much difference between the nine forwards who aren't on MSU's top two lines, and all deserve to play at this stage of the season.

• More Sparty shorts: The crowd of 7,042 at Munn Ice Arena for Friday's win over Michigan was the fourth-biggest in building history. And it was a good sign, given the attendance slide in East Lansing the last few years. ... Among those in the rink was Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman, whom cameras captured sitting next to MSU athletic director Ron Mason. Perhaps Stevie Y is being courted to replace John L. Smith.

• Alaska freshman forward Dion Knelson, obviously cursed by his prominence in last week's notebook, was hurt on a shoulder-to-shoulder hit in last Thursday's practice in Omaha. He sat out the series against UNO and is not expected to play at Northern Michigan. He is considered week-to-week, and with the Nanooks having a bye next weekend, the LSSU series on Nov. 24-25 looks like a solid bet for a return. ... Knelson's absence didn't hinder usual linemate Kyle Greentree at UNO, however. Greentree netted a hat trick in the first period of the series, then added a goal and three assists over the last five stanzas for a seven-point weekend in the heartland.

• Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha square off this weekend in Ann Arbor, and the series features the top two active players in the country in terms of career points. U-M's Hensick is No. 1 with 169 (including a category-leading 113 assists), and UNO's Scott Parse is No. 2 with 157 (including a category-leading 59 goals).

• Two freshman netminders got votes of confidence last week, as Northern Michigan's Brian Stewart earned his first career start and beat Miami on the road, and Western Michigan's Riley Gill started the Broncos' only game of the weekend and shut out Wayne State. Stewart had a strained groin that kept him out of the first month of the season, putting the load on junior Bill Zaniboni. Gill, who has won both of his starts at WMU, seems to be working his way into a rotation with incumbent Daniel Bellissimo.

• No nonconference action this weekend. Thanks to the Broncos, the CCHA went 1-0 out of the league last weekend.

• Credit LSSU defenseman Justin Gutwald for being ready at a moment's notice. When regular blue liners Marty Gurnoe and Steven Kaunisto got sick on the bus to Bowling Green last week, Roque was left with only four defensemen. So he called Gutwald, who was not slated to make the trip, and had him drive down separately to play Friday night's game. Roque didn't take a seventh defenseman to BG, thinking that if one got hurt Friday, he would play Saturday with five D. When two went down, he had to summon Gutwald just to have five. Both Gurnoe and Kaunisto returned to the lineup Saturday.

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