Zach Tuggle / The Lantern
The Ohio State men’s hockey team only has a single senior on their roster opening the 2009 campaign, but a core of juniors and sophomores should help stop talk of 2009 being a rebuilding season.
Despite losing their leading scorer, Corey Elkins, all but one of their 15 highest point scorers from last season are returning.
The 12 juniors and seven sophomores look to build off of last season’s 23-15-4 overall record and 13-11-4 conference record. Their premature exit from the NCAA tournament last year should put an extra fire under the experienced Buckeyes.
A stepping-stone season
Looking back on last season, head coach John Markell said he believes that the previous year was a great stepping stone season for his team.
“We were very close to being a top four team in this league,” Markell said. “With the youth we had, I like the strides we made. I think we established some positions. Our goal tending and defense were solid and we were a good goal tending team.”
Last season, the team started off to an adequate 3-5-1, but a 13-game unbeaten streak midway through the season brought them into national contention.
The streak was a symbol of consistency, something that Markell is preaching to his team this season.
Their successful season ended in disappointment with a loss, 8-3, to No. 1 Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“They took the loss the right way and really worked this summer,” Markell said. “I’m waiting to see what that gives them.”
Progressing toward this season, Markell said he wants to improve on a few aspects of his team from last season.
“The concerns I have for this team is that our power play has to work better if we are going to make even greater strides,” he said. “We need to get a guy on the anchor of our power play and we also have to defend a little better.”
Filling the gaps
Markell knows he lost three talented seniors this season, but he believes his team can fill in the gaps.
“We lost Corey Elkins, physical players Nick Biondo and Zach Pelletier, that we are going to have to replace,” he said. “We have all the makings with our junior and sophomore classes. The character that we added with our freshman class can fill the holes.”
Dustin Carlson, the starting goaltender and a member of this year’s talented junior class, said he believes that this year the team can make great strides with their experienced returning players.
“I think we are going to perform a lot better than last year,” Carlson said. “We have a huge returning class and pretty much everyone started.”
Carlson said he also believes that even though Elkins was such an important component of last season’s team, someone could easily fill his role.
“I definitely think someone is going to step up and fill his shoes for sure,” he said. “We have a lot of depth in scoring and I think everyone is going to step up again.”
Junior forward Peter Boyd agreed with Carlson’s assessment.
“There’s quite a few guys that can put the puck in the back of the net,” Boyd said. “Corey was a good player obviously, but I definitely think there are guys that can fill into that role.”
Other notable returning starters are junior forwards John Albert and Sergio Somma. Albert, who was only two points away from being last year’s lead scorer, looks to improve on his 39 point total and 11 goals.
Two sophomores who look to build upon their successful first seasons are forwards Zac Dalpe and Ian Boots.
Carlson will return as the team’s starting goalie this season where he posted a 21-12-3 record and allowed only 2.5 goals per game.
“Taking it in small blocks”
Looking to the upcoming season, Markell said he could not wait to start.
“I love the character of our young freshmen,” he said. “Our nucleus is sophomores and juniors, and if they are tight-knit it could take you a long way. They feel like a family and they are playing for each other.”
The Buckeyes will face tough opponents this season such as Notre Dame, Miami University and Michigan, but Markell is not focused on any particular opponent.
“In college hockey the parity is unbelievable,” he said. “There’s 58 Division 1 hockey teams and everybody can beat everyone. You have to be prepared to play each and every game.”
Carlson also believes in the parity theory emphasized by his head coach.
“Obviously we want to beat the big teams like Michigan and Miami,” he said. “But we can’t overlook anyone at all. We need every game this year. [We need to] just take it in small blocks a weekend every time. We are looking for consistency and a 20-win season that I think we are capable in having.”
OSU kicks off the season with a game at home against Western Ontario Sunday at noon.