Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


NCAA tourney set to kick off

It’s crunch time for the Ice Badgers.

After a disappointing series against the lowly Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves and a startling first-round exit from the WCHA’s postseason tournament, head coach Mike Eaves’ squad begins its third season tonight against Ohio State in Albany, NY.

Disappointments left behind them, the Badgers will look for redemption on their highest stage yet.


Early in the season the Badgers identified a National Championship as a goal they felt was within their reach. To take a grab at it, they will have to first get past a team that’s momentum is pulling them up as the Badgers’ pulls them down.

The Buckeyes are one of five teams from the CCHA to be included in the NCAA tournament field of 16 (only the WCHA has as many teams competing). They finished the regular season with a strong 16-12-0 conference record, but at fourth place in the CCHA were on the bubble for a tournament bid.

A strong showing in their conference tournament changed that very quickly. With a fourth-seed going into the competition, OSU rolled over Bowling Green in the first round of the tournament, outscoring the Falcons eight to four in a two-game sweep.

In a high-scoring overtime contest, the Buckeyes next squeaked past a tough Notre Dame team (which took a series from the Badgers in Madison earlier this season) 6-5. In the tournament’s semi-finals, OSU staged a third-period comeback against favored Miami of Ohio and finished the Redhawks off — again in overtime.

In the finals the Buckeyes took out the top-seeded Wolverines of Michigan 4-2 to complete their surprise run. The conference championship inspired the NCAA selection committee to upgrade the once borderline inclusion to a number two seed.

As a team, Ohio State is solid in most every aspect of the game. They finished fifth in the CCHA with 3.18 goals scored per game and came in third with only 2.50 allowed. The Buckeyes are solid on the penalty-kill and on the power play — each unit having finished close to the top of the conference in effectiveness.

OSU’s success has come largely predicated on the symmetry of their offensive attack.

The Badgers have done a tremendous job this season of shutting down their opponents’ best players — both through their suffocating defenders and their tough defensive-forwards — but UW may not have seen a more evenly distributed talent-base this season. With six forwards tallying over ten goals, the Buckeyes showed that they can strike in any situation with any line on the ice.

Heading the group of talented forwards is Wisconsin-native Dave Steckel. Steckel put up 17 goals this season to tie for the Buckeyes’ lead. He added 13 assists for a total of 30 points. Though the senior has never managed to match his freshman year point total of 38 points and has been maligned often for that fact, he is a force on both ends of the ice and, playing on a line without much alternate scoring-ability, is perhaps the most important factor in the OSU offense.

Along with Steckel, senior Paul Caponigri stole a share of the goal-scoring lead for the Buckeyes. Caponigri had 22 assists for 39 total points. Senior Scott May, junior JB Bittner, sophomores Rod Pelley and Dan Knapp and freshman Andrew Schembri all added over ten goals for the Buckeyes. Senior defenseman Doug Andress led the team with 27 assists.

The one area that may be a concern for head coach John Markell’s team is staying out of the penalty box. The Buckeyes gave their opponents nearly a penalty more per game this season than their nearest competitor in the CCHA.

Wisconsin has been on-and-off on the power play this season, but to get past Ohio State, recently named All-WHCA Rookie Team forward Robbie Earl and company will have to find a way to put the biscuit in the basket when they’re given an advantage.

What lies ahead: If the Badgers are able to take out the Buckeyes tonight, their opponent in the east regional finals will be the winner of a matchup between the Black Bears of Maine and the Crimson of Harvard.

Harvard is undoubtedly one of the weakest teams in the field of 16 on paper, but the Crimson have gotten going lately. Head coach Mark Mazzoleni’s squad had an at-best mediocre regular season, finishing with a 10-10-2 record in the weak Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference and an 18-14-3 record overall. They were seeded sixth in their conference’s postseason tournament, but came out of nowhere to steal the title and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament that came with it. Overall the Crimson have won seven straight contests.

Netminder Dov Grumet-Morris has been the catalyst for Harvard’s success. The junior from Evanston, Illinois is a third-year starter who has become tougher with every year of collegiate action — improving his goals against average from 2.84 in his freshman year to a 2.38 in his sophomore year and posting a stellar 2.27 this season.

The Crimson were led in scoring by center Tom Cavanagh, who scored just over a point per game in his junior season.

Maine comes into the NCAA tournament as hot as any team in the country, having lost just one of its past 16 games. The Bears finished second in the Hockey East conference with a 17-5-2 conference record, losing the regular season title by a single point to Boston College (17-4-3). They were the only collegiate D-1 team to hit the 30-win-mark in 2003-04 with a 30-7-3 overall record.

Maine’s offense is strong, scoring 3.30 goals per game (the thirteenth best average in the nation), but the true basis for their success was a stifling defense and outstanding goaltending. The Bears allowed just 1.55 goals per game, the best mark in college hockey by almost a half goal.

Sophomore goaltender Jim Howard only filled the net in about half of Maine’s games, but when he played he was better than anyone around. Howard allowed a miniscule 1.05 goals against per game and saved nearly 96% of the shots he faced on his way to a 12-3-3 record. He tallied six shutouts (in 18 games) and led the nation in save percentage and goals against average.

The senior that Howard split time with, Frank Doyle, was no slouch himself, going 18-4-0 with a 1.84 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.

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