December 28, 2004
Ohio Hockey Classic

Nationwide Arena • Columbus, Ohio

Holiday Tournament Preview

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

Holiday Tournament Previews
Badger Hockey Showdown
Florida College Classic
Great Lakes Invitational
Ledyard National Bank Classic
UConn Hockey Classic
Wells Fargo Denver Cup
Dodge Holiday Classic


Wednesday, December 29
Minnesota State, Mankato vs. Ohio State, 5:05 p.m. ET
Colorado College vs. Miami, 8:05 p.m. ET

Thursday, December 30
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.


Richard 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.


Fans 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 the action.

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.


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.

Keeping that 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.

It’s unlikely 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.

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