|An unedited picture of OU standout Tyler Pilmore.
Ohio coach Dan Morris' answer to a question about his favorite Penn State-Ohio memory sounds strikingly similar to the answer I'd give to the same question. Not coincidentally, a disproportionate number of my favorite Icers memories involve wins over the southeastern Ohio sextet: the 2003 national championship game, the 2009 ACHA quarterfinals, and the October 10, 2009 regular season game. Even games that pre-date my hearing of the Icers by a decade, like the 1990 NIT upset, make the cut.
The worst ones? Much of the same. The 2004 national championship game win by OU that halted PSU's title string at four is definitely up there, and I don't know that I've ever felt worse about the Icers program than I did after the sweep in Athens to open the spring semester last season.
That's the mark of a true archrival, isn't it? The most important games of the year, regardless of the stakes, and the ability to hand out your highest highs and lowest lows. In a sense, the two programs define each other, with arguably more shared history - four national championship game meetings, just to scratch the surface - than any other pair of ACHA teams.
More memories will surely be made when Ohio visits the Ice Pavilion Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. A live stream, as always, will be available on the Icers UStream channel.
As strong as my distaste for OU is (one made even more personal by my residence in Ohio, and my enrollment at one of OU's conference rivals for other sports), I do have to give them credit in one important area. For as long as I can remember, and thanks in large part to the school's outstanding Scripps College of Communication, their media representation has been as strong as anyone in the ACHA. That's as true today as ever, and it allows me to present head coach Dan Morris discussing his injury-stricken team as well as this weekend's games.
Morris touched on OU's young players in the video, but they have some pretty decent vets as well returning from a team that made it to the ACHA semifinals last season. As usual, they bring a ton of firepower to town, led by senior captain Michael Schultz who posted team highs of 25 goals, 41 assists and 66 points last year, and has done more of the same so far this year with his 9 goals and 13 points. Supporting him: frequent linemate Tyler Pilmore, Zach Tisdale, Alex DiMassa as well Brett Agnew (the only underclassman of the group), who scored a hat trick's worth of PPGs in last year's Saturday game at the Ice Pavilion. Defensively, Jonathan Gulch and Zack Barbis are two of the best the ACHA has to offer, with Barbis often serving as the triggerman for the big guns up front and Gulch being a bit more well-rounded.
The Icers do get a bit of a reprieve with defenseman Jake Holzemer - another guy with some offensive and power play upside - likely out with a knee injury, and usual top forward line member Nick Rostek questionable with a high ankle sprain. Still, what's left over may very well be the biggest challenge the Icers face all season.
After capable goaltending from Alabama-Huntsville transfer Blake MacNicol last season, this season brings Fedor Dushkin, MacNicol's backup last season. It's been a little bit of a baptism by fire for the Ukranian sophomore, who really only saw action in Ohio's walkover games last season. This year, he has to stare down the A-list opponents, and he was at his finest in a 48-for-50 effort in a 4-2 win over Oklahoma at the ACHA Showcase on October 8th, OU's biggest win to date. But the very next day, Delaware got six of 25 by him in the Bobcats' only loss thus far.
To borrow from a recent PSU blogosphere meme, buckle up. The best rivalry. Possibly the two best teams. With all due respect to the drama surely to follow, we may be about to witness the games of the year.