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Hockey: Tournament savvy senior class spearheads championship effort
After Ohio defeated Iowa State 4-0 on Sunday, junior defenseman Jonathan Gulch put on a goalie mask and goalie gloves as “Harlem Shake” began to play on the speakers in the locker room.
Soon, he was surrounded by a dancing mob of teammates, shouting and celebrating the school’s eighth Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament Championship.
Coach Dan Morris has praised his senior class time and again this season, crediting them for most of the success the young team, featuring 15 new players, has had.
And he has reason to praise the experienced forwards for their work last weekend, as Tyler Pilmore and Nick Rostek combined for 13 points, while penalty kill aces Jay Mazzarella and Jonathan Pietramala held opposing power plays scoreless during the three-game stretch.
That group has played in a CSCHL Tournament Championship in every season they’ve been at Ohio, and Morris said it was that experience that played a large role in their victory on Sunday.
“I give a lot of credit to our seniors for teaching our (15 new players) how to win a championship,” Morris said. “You have to experience those types of things if you want to win. …(Iowa State) doesn’t have that kind of experience.”
The younger players on the team have appreciated what the upperclassmen have shown them throughout the season. Freshman Nick Hudeck, who scored three goals during the three games, said that they’ve taught a good deal to players like him.
“It’s just obvious in the way that they prepare for the game,” Hudeck said. “They know what’s going on and have been here every year before and I definitely feel like that showed today.”
One player who played a large role in the tournament who hadn’t played in it previously was graduate student goalie Matt Michno.
Michno shut out Indiana while facing 15 shots Friday and blanked the Cyclones on 33 shots Sunday, earning the CSCHL Tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
After Saturday’s 5-3 win against Lindenwood, when junior goalie Fedor Dushkin stopped 22 shots in 25 opportunities, Morris wasn’t sure who he would go with between the pipes in the championship game.
The original plan was to stick with Dushkin in the final two games, but after seeing the energy he expended against Lindenwood, Morris decided a rested Michno would be his best option.
After the dust settled Sunday, Morris knew he made the right call.
“With the short turnaround we were confident we could go with (Michno) and he was well-rested,” Morris said. “He didn’t get many pucks on Friday night (against Indiana), but he got enough to get back in (a groove).”
Michno was eager for the opportunity and gave thanks to his defense for taking some of the pressure off of him.
“We knew (Iowa State) was going to come out with a lot more intensity than Indiana would,” Michno said. “We felt like we were ready for them the way we matched up and the defense made it a lot easier than the numbers would say.”