December 27, 2007
Ohio Hockey Classic

Value City Arena • Columbus, Ohio

Holiday Tournament Preview


Saturday, Dec. 29
St. Cloud State vs. Miami, 6:05 p.m.
Harvard at Ohio State, 9:05 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 30
St. Cloud State/Miami vs. Harvard, 5:05 p.m.
St. Cloud State/Miami at Ohio State, 8:07 p.m.

(All times Eastern)


In CCHA play, Miami won the regular-season series against Ohio State with two wins and two ties against the Buckeyes. In last year's Ohio Hockey Classic championship game, which counted as a non-conference affair, OSU prevailed by a 5-3 margin. The RedHawks advanced to the title game by beating Bowling Green, 3-2, in the first round, while the Bucks handled the lone non-CCHA team in the tournament field, Minnesota Duluth, by a 4-1 margin. The Bulldogs topped BGSU, 4-3, for third place.


Ohio State forward Tom Fritsche recorded an assist in both of his team's wins in last year's Ohio Hockey Classic. Why is that significant? Because it marked the first games back in the Buckeye lineup for Fritsche, the team's leading scorer in both 2004-05 and 2005-06, after missing the first 18 games of the season with ulcerative colitis.


Senior forwards Fritsche and Tommy Goebel — the team's leading scorer with 16 points, 11 of them coming in the last 10 games — are Ohio State's most dynamic players, but the Buckeyes' goaltending situation is more intriguing. Sophomore Joseph Palmer, who's started 52 of OSU's 57 games since the start of the 2006-07 season, is in the Czech Republic with the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship. That leaves the starting assignment to a pair of little-used backups — sophomore Nick Filion (an 0-2-1 mark in four career starts) or freshman Dustin Carlson, who allowed five goals in his lone career start at Nebraska-Omaha Nov. 9. OSU's first-round opponent, Harvard, has no such issues between the pipes. Sophomore netminder Kyle Richter ranks ninth nationally in goals-against average with a 1.85 GAA and his .938 save percentage is fifth among Division I goalies in that category.

As good as Richter has been in goal this season, Miami's Jeff Zatkoff has been even better, as evidenced by his 1.36 GAA and .940 save percentage, though it wouldn't be a shock to see capable backup Charlie Effinger get the starting nod in one of the games. Miami boasts the nation's top offense, averaging 4.5 goals per game. Leading the charge are the country's second- and third-ranked goal scorers — forwards Ryan Jones (16 goals) and Justin Mercier (14 goals) — and freshman Carter Camper, who ranks tied for second among rookies nationally with 19 points. The leader in that category is St. Cloud State's Garrett Roe, who has 11 goals and 14 assists in 17 games. He joins sophomores Ryan Lasch, who leads the Huskies with 26 points, and Andreas Nodl to spearhead the team's potent attack.


The Miami-St. Cloud State semifinal has the ingredients to be one of the most exciting games of the holiday season — too bad only about 200 people will be at Value City Arena to see it. The Huskies are halfway through a murderous seven-week stretch during which they've played series with Clarkson, Wisconsin, Denver, and Colorado College and have upcoming dates with North Dakota and Minnesota. St. Cloud State should be re-energized following the two-week break and the Huskies play a smart, disciplined style necessary to neutralize Miami's explosiveness. They haven't seen a team as deep or as talented as Miami, however. Barring a sensational performance from SCSU goalie Jase Weslosky, the RedHawks will prevail.

Ohio State is the anti-Miami — a young, inexperienced lot with little scoring punch behind Goebel, Fritsche, and freshman Sergio Somma. The Buckeyes' goaltending dilemma only highlights the weaknesses. And while Harvard is no offensive juggernaut and Richter is coming off a forgettable start in which he allowed six goals on 22 shots in a little more than 40 minutes of work against Boston College two weeks ago, the Crimson should handle Ohio State.

That leads to a Harvard-Miami final. Richter has turned in fine performances against quality opponents this season — 42 saves in a 6-1 win at St. Lawrence, 39 saves in an overtime win at Boston University, 28 saves in a shutout of Rensselaer — but the RedHawks are on a completely different level. They should encounter little resistance en route to their second title in the four-year history of this tournament.

— Mike Eidelbes