December 27, 2005
Ohio Hockey Classic
Nationwide Arena • Columbus, Ohio

Holiday Tournament Preview


Thursday, December 29

Miami vs. Rensselaer 5:05 p.m.
Holy Cross at Ohio State, 8:05 p.m.

Friday, December 30

Consolation Game, 5:05 p.m.
Championship Game, 8:05 p.m.

On TV: The Ohio News Network will carry the Holy Cross-Ohio State game Thursday and Friday's Buckeye game against either Miami or Rensselaer.


The inaugural Ohio Hockey Classic pitted Miami and host Ohio State against WCHA opponents Colorado College and Minnesota State, Mankato. The Mavericks and RedHawks left Columbus with 0-1-1 records, while the Tigers and Buckeyes posted identical 1-0-1 marks. CC and OSU skated to a 2-2 draw in the tournament finale; the Tigers were declared champions after winning a five-player shootout, 3-2.


There has only been one Ohio Hockey Classic, so historical tidbits are scant. Therefore, we offer this friendly bit of advice. Hockey fans who were in Columbus for last year’s Frozen Four and showed up at Nationwide Arena – home of the NHL’s Blue Jackets – instead of Value City Arena on the OSU campus, which is where the event was actually played, will be pleased to know the OHC takes place at Nationwide for a second straight year.


You’d be hard pressed to find another holiday tournament with better goaltending than that at the Ohio Hockey Classic. Miami’s tandem of sophomore Charlie Effinger and freshman Jeff Zatkoff both rank among the top five nationally in goals against average and save percentage, while Holy Cross’s Tony Quesada has rebounded from an uneven junior campaign to rank among the NCAA’s top 20 in the same categories. Ohio State’s Dave Caruso should be back in goal after missing the Buckeyes’ pre-holiday series against Union with an injury; he’s 5-1-1 in his last seven starts and has allowed 11 goals during that span. Rensselaer, meanwhile, casts its lot with freshman Mathias Lange, who ranks third in goals against average and fifth in save percentage among rookie netminders.

The goalies will be tested. Rensselaer boasts two of the country's top scorers in senior forward Kevin Croxton (third in the NCAA with 11-17–28) and junior forward Owen Eizenman (tied for ninth with 11-15–26). Miami, meanwhile, boasts a balanced scoring effort. Seven RedHawks have scored 10 or more points. Junior forwards Matt Christie and Marty Guerin are among that group despite getting off to sluggish starts. Christie enters the tourney with 12 points and Guerin has 11 – neither player registered fewer than 33 points in either of their first two seasons in Oxford.

Ohio State would like to get its two top goal scorers from last season untracked. Rod Pelley and Matthew Beaudoin, who combined for 45 goals a year ago, have registered 11 markers between them thus far. Holy Cross will lean on its special teams – the Crusaders own the country's third-ranked penalty kill and seventh-best power play. The extra-man attack is paced by seniors Tyler McGregor (7 PPGs) and Pierre Napert-Frenette (5 PPGs).


The Ohio Hockey Classic should be one of the more intriguing items on the holiday hockey menu since every team in the field has a legitimate chance to win two games. It's tough to pick against Miami, however. The RedHawks, riding the country's longest unbeaten streak (6-0-2), have been the most consistent team this side of Wisconsin. Their superior balance should be enough to carry them past Rensselaer. Ohio State will outlast Holy Cross, but it'll be a close one. The Crusaders and their potent power play present a problem for the Buckeyes, one of the country's most penalized teams.

Since we expect Holy Cross and Rensselaer to play well enough to win their respective first-round matches, both teams deserve a reward for their efforts. They'll skate to a draw in the tournament's third-place game. In the title match, we'll tab Miami in what could conceivably be a low-scoring affair given the play of the RedHawks' goalies and OSU's Caruso. The stingy Miami defense is too much for the Buckeyes to overcome.