Ohio Hockey Classic
Arena • Columbus, Ohio
Minnesota State, Mankato vs. Ohio State, 5:05 p.m.
Colorado College vs. Miami, 8:05 p.m. ET
Miami vs. Minnesota State, Mankato, 5:05 p.m. ET
Colorado College vs. Ohio State, 8:05 p.m. ET
This is the first
year of the Ohio Hockey Classic.
Celeste, who served two terms as governor of Ohio from 1982-90,
is now president of Colorado College. Prior to his gubernatorial
run, Celeste was an Ohio state representative from 1970-74
and the state’s lieutenant governor from 1974-78.
attending the Ohio Hockey Classic will be treated to quite
an impressive array of individual talent, so much so that
the primary tenant of Nationwide Arena – the Columbus
Blue Jackets – will likely sneak a peek at some of
Colorado College, ranked second in the most recent INCH
Power Rankings, boasts eight NHL draft picks, but the Tigers’
leading scorer – and the country’s top point-getter
– is an undrafted free agent. Junior center Marty
Sertich (15-18—33 in 18 games) teams with feisty left
wing Brett Sterling to form the nation’s most potent
one-two punch. Sterling (15-15—30) is tied for first
nationally in game-winning goals (four) and ranks second
to Minnesota’s Ryan Potulny in power play goals (nine).
Gaudy offensive statistics aside, the most imposing Tiger
is defenseman Mark Stuart. A first-round pick of the Boston
Bruins in the 2003 NHL Draft, scouts have compared Stuart
to Scott Stevens.
Miami came into the season with lofty expectations, but
after winning its first four games of the season, the RedHawks
posted a 3-9-2 mark over the ensuing 14 games. One of the
few bright spots has been defenseman Andy Greene, who leads
the team with 18 points in as many games. While he’s
not an imposing physical presence like Stuart, he’s
more dangerous offensively. Coach Enrico Blasi will send
the junior on the ice in every situation.
Most experts thought Ohio State would experience a drop-off
this season after losing a veteran corps from last year’s
CCHA playoff championship squad, but contributions from
a number of newcomers have kept the Buckeyes near the top
of the conference standings throughout the first half of
the season. The best of the bunch is Tom Fritsche, a freshman
forward who many thought would be added to the team representing
the U.S. at the World Junior Championship. With two goals
and 15 assists thus far, Fritsche has exhibited excellent
vision, terrific hands, above average strength and skating
skill and a quick release on his shot.
The same description
applies to Minnesota State, Mankato forward David Backes.
One of the WCHA’s most dynamic offensive players,
the St. Louis Blues’ draft pick has 20 points in 18
games this season, a little ahead of his point-per-game
career average. At 6-3, 210 pounds, the Blaine, Minn., native
uses his size well and is versatile enough to play either
wing or center. He’s an aggressive forward, but needs
to steer clear of the penalty box.
HOW WE SEE IT
The Ohio Hockey
Classic won’t follow the traditional win-and-advance
format – the tournament champion will be determined
by record, and if teams have identical marks, a series of
tie-breakers will be utilized.
in mind, the event finale pitting Colorado College against
Ohio State will probably determine the inaugural OHC titlist.
The Buckeyes are fairly explosive, ranking third in the
CCHA with scoring offense, but they don’t have the
depth or experience to keep pace with the Tigers, who’ve
won nine of their last 10 and are averaging 5.1 goals per
game during that stretch. Sterling, Sertich and Co. –
leaders of the nation’s third-best power play unit
(24.5 percent) – should be salivating at the prospect
of facing OSU, the country’s most penalized team at
just over 31 PIMs per contest. Colorado College coasts to
two wins, and the hosts have to settle for second place.
Miami and Minnesota State, Mankato have the horsepower to
top Colorado College or Ohio State, respectively, and the
contest featuring the RedHawks and Mavericks would seem
to be the least intriguing of the four games. That said,
the winner of Thursday’s matinee may get a boost as
they head into the second half of the season.
Miami comes into
the OHC as healthy as they’ve been since October.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, have been as predictable as Courtney
Love this season – after an 0-5-1 start, they rebounded
to post a 7-1-1 stretch only to lose their final three games
prior to the holiday break. At first glance, it appears
Mankato comes into the second half of the season with a
little more mojo and Backes is a dynamic offensive force.
But Miami is due for a break – and they’ve got
more depth and better goaltending than the Mavs. The RedHawks
head back to Oxford with a confidence-swelling win.