Okposo's Back; And The Best Trio You Don't Know
Inside College Hockey Staff
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If the four goals he's scored in the last three
games weren't enough of an indication, Minnesota forward Kyle
Okposo put into words what a lot of Gopher fans have been
thinking, and hoping recently.
"I'm back," Okposo said after last
Saturday's 4-2 Gopher loss to Alaska Anchorage. Okposo's face
displayed a shy smile that betrayed his dislike for talking
about individual accomplishments after a team loss. "I
think I'm starting to play well. I feel like I've got a pep
in my step and I'm starting to play like the player of old."
While it may seem strange for a sophomore to
want to be a "player of old," consider that Okposo's
rookie season started with him recording a point in 16 of
his first 18 games, and leading the Gophers in nearly every
offensive category heading into the holiday break last season
with 15 goals and 23 points. One of those goals was a highlight-reel
move from a game at Minnesota State last December when he
scored the game-winner by pulling the puck back between his
skates, then flipping an under-the-leg shot past the Mavericks'
Roughly three weeks later, Okposo hit a wall
that – as many pointed out – coincided with linemate
Tyler Hirsch's dismissal from the team. Okposo had just four
goals in the Gophers final 22 games last season, and after
flirting with signing a New York Islanders offer sheet over
the summer, started slowly in the first month of the 2007-08
The sophomore's resurgence began two weeks ago
in a home game with Minnesota State, when Gophers coach Don
Lucia put Okposo and his booming slap shot on the point for
a few Minnesota power plays, and Okposo responded with his
first multi-goal game in nearly a year. He scored in both
of the Gophers' games last weekend versus Alaska Anchorage,
which drew a mixture of praise and questions about the rest
of the offense from his coach.
"He's come alive," Lucia said. "Kyle
played very well this weekend, but some of the supporting
cast's play dropped off."
Okposo said the Gophers recent troubles (they're
a pedestrian 2-3-0 at home in WCHA play) stem from brief lapses
that give opportunities to their opponents – like the
four-minute stretch of the third period last Saturday which
saw a 2-1 Minnesota lead become a 4-2 deficit.
"We've got to start bumping guys, being
more physical and just getting a little jam to our game,"
Okposo said. "We've got to be making plays, making short
passes, making the right plays at the right times. We do that
a lot. We do that at many points in the game, but there are
some points where we don't do those things, and it comes back
to haunt us."
– Jess Myers
SEEN AND HEARD AROUND THE NATION
|Owen Meyer is a part
of Army's high-scoring top-line.
The Knight Stuff: Army's top
line of seniors Bryce Hollweg, Luke Flicek and sophomore Owen
Meyer can certainly make the claim to be the best offensive
unit in Atlantic Hockey, and perhaps nationally – at
A huge two week performance has vaulted the
Army trio to the top of the league scoring charts. Meyer leads
in goals scored (8) and is tied with Flicek for most points
(15). Flicek is the leading helper (10) to go with his five
goals. Hollweg is tied for third in points (5-8-13).
Flicek and Meyer are tied for fourth nationally
with 1.5 points per game and Hollweg is tied for 16th at 1.3.
"It's as good an offensive line that I
can recall since I've been here," said Army head coach
Brian Riley, whose tenure as a team assistant dates back to
1989. "The are certainly a threat every time they are
on the ice."
The unit combined for six points and seven points
in a sweep of American International on Nov. 9-10, and then
piled on 13 points in a 7-2 win over Bentley on Nov. 16.
Meyer posted his first collegiate hat trick
in the 7-1 win over AIC on Nov. 10. Hollweg trumped that with
his three-goal, two-assist effort in the Bentley series opener,
and Meyer contributed five assists – that's the most
helpers for an Army player since Ian Winer helped on five
goals in a Jan. 27, 1995, win over Bentley.
Hat tricks are not common at Army. The last
time the team posted back-to-back hat tricks was Jan. 1998
when future AHL player Andy Lundbohm performed the task. The
last time Army had successive hat tricks by different players
was Nov. 1994.
"We just click and know where each other
is going to be," said Hollweg, whose brother, Ryan, plays
for the New York Rangers. "We all bring something different
to the table, too."
Flicek has great vision and puck-handling ability
at right wing. The center Hollweg is hard working and able
to retrieve pucks in the corners. Right winger Meyer may be
the most skilled of the three, and uses his long reach and
physical 6-foot-2 frame to dominate on shifts.
Flicek and Hollweg were partnered with Chase
Podsiad, who decided to move back to defense early last season.
Both linemates agreed that Meyer – then a freshmen –
would be a good asset to their unit. Together, the line helped
propel to a third-place finish in league play and a berth
in the Atlantic Hockey title game.
"The time we spent together last year,
developing that chemistry, has really carried over,"
said Meyer, who has 46 points in his first 46 collegiate games.
— Ken McMillan
Struggling CCHA Teams Meet:
With just one win in 11 total league games between them, things
are looking a little different than preseason expectations
dictated for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Western Michigan
Broncos heading into their meeting this weekend.
Both teams were thought to be contenders for
a spot in the top half of the CCHA, and looked to meet that
standard when the Buckeyes started with a pair of wins, including
a 5-3 win over Wisconsin, at the Lefty McFadden Invitational.
The Broncos also appeared strong, opening their campaign by
sweeping Bentley at home in Kalamazoo.
The two teams’ struggles have stemmed
from offensive shortcomings, as both have experienced troubles
finding the back of the net.
“We just have to get back to our old selves,”
Western Michigan goaltender Riley Gill said to the Western
Herald. “We played well the first few weekends but then
we shut it down after that. We have to get our confidence
back and pop in a few goals early.”
But while the Broncos numbers appear paltry
against the upper echelon of the CCHA, the Buckeyes’
haven’t even been able to muster half as much offense.
Western Michigan has notched 15 goals in 6 league games, while
Ohio State has only been able to find the back of the net
8 times in their six CCHA contests.
— James V. Dowd
Mercyhurst Skeptical About Potential
CHA Switch: With Wayne State’s departure at
the end of the current campaign, there has been much talk
about the future of, or if there even will be a College Hockey
America conference in 2008-09.
One of the rumors had two teams from Atlantic
Hockey joining CHA bringing it back to a six-team league.
One of the rumored teams was Mercyhurst, but head coach Rick
Gotkin said Saturday that it looks to be dead at this point.
:There is absolutely no way we will join CHA
unless there is a guarantee. We've been told that, while the
Atlantic wants us to stay, we could go if we wanted, but with
no guarantee of being allowed back should something else happen
with CHA. We had no problem with the travel and being one
of the ones to help out, but we don’t want to be left
without a chair if the music stops. Without the guarantee,
it won’t happen."
— Warren Kozireski
Great Weekend Getaways
We'd Pay to Watch in Person:
Colorado College vs. Denver
These Rocky Mountain rivals begin a big four-point
weekend in WCHA play on Friday in Colorado Springs and
play in Denver on Saturday. Both teams come into the
weekend series in good form. The Tigers have won five
straight and DU has rattled off four consecutive victories.
Games We'd Pay to Watch on TV:
St. Cloud State at Clarkson
It's the ultimate which-team-is-for-real series
this weekend in Potsdam, N.Y. and we may find out that
the answer is St. Cloud State, Clarkson, both, or neither.
Both teams boast talented groups of forwards. Expect
lots of scoring chances.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Rensselaer hosts the oldest continuous
holiday college hockey tournament this weekend at Houston
Field House in Troy, N.Y. and Friday's early semifinal features
an intriguing rematch from last year's NCAA Tournament.
Alabama-Huntsville will try to make it two CHA
titles in a row (Niagara won last year) at the RPI tournament.
They face Notre Dame in the first round, who the Chargers
took to double-overtime in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Grand
Rapids last March. Rensselaer and American International round
out the field.
• Joe Marciano, a 17-year-old blueliner
from Alta Loma, Cailf. (a Los Angeles suburb) committed to
Colorado College this week. He told Kate Crandall of the Colorado
Springs Gazette that geography was a factor in his decision.
"Being from California, it's a good fit for me and Colorado
is close to home," Marciano told the paper.
While CC is among the closest D-I hockey schools
for Southern California kids, to say it's "close to home"
may be a bit of a stretch. According to Google Maps, it's
more than 1,100 miles from Alta Loma to Colorado Springs.
That's roughly the same distance between Madison and Boston
– not exactly "drive home on the weekend and have
mom do my laundry" proximity.
• Sacred Heart was swept at Niagara, 4-2
and 3-1 last week, giving up late goals in each game. Niagara’s
Les Reaney and Kyle Rogers scored in the final two minutes
in the opener. Egor Mironov and Vince Rocco scored in the
final 11 minutes in the Purple Eagles’ second win. The
Pioneers have dropped three in a row for the first time since
Jan. 12-20, 2007, when they lost to RIT twice and at Dartmouth.
The weekend sweep was the first since dropping a home-and-home
with U.Conn on Feb. 2-3, 2007.
• Reports earlier this week declared
Saturday's game between Cornell and Boston University at Madison
Square Garden a sellout, which means that more than 18,000
people will be watching college hockey in Manhattan. These
schools have a storied rivalry dating back to the pre-Hockey
East days when BU was a member of the ECAC.
• The Michigan Wolverines have jumped
out to their best CCHA start in program history, notching
8 consecutive wins to begin their campaign. While the Wolverines
have a week off from league play this week, they face off
with Ohio State and Bowling Green in the two following weekends
as they try to head into the break 12-0-0 in the CCHA.
• While the Miami RedHawks are known best
for the offense led by Nathan Davis and Ryan Jones, defense
has been a key part of their success thus far, opening the
CCHA campaign 9-1-0. The RedHawks have allowed just 18 goals
in 12 total games this year, led by goaltender Jeff Zatkoff’s
league-leading 1.40 goals against average and .942 save percentage.
• Mercyhurst snapped a three-game losing
streak with a 6-3 win at Rochester Institute of Technology
on Friday. Maine transfer Matt Lundin was back in nets after
hurting himself in the season opener, stopping 39 shots for
his first Laker win. The Lakers trailed 3-2 before scoring
four goals in the final period, two from Brandon Coccimiglio
and single tallies 25 seconds apart from Neil Graham and Bobby
Phillips. Lundin stopped 51 shots the next night but dropped
a 3-2 overtime decision as Simon Lambert scored at the 3:11
• From the "what were you thinking"
department, we have a funny slip-up by DECC public address
announcer Howie Leathers. During last Friday's 1-1 tie between
Minnesota Duluth and Michigan Tech, a third-period penalty
on Tech's Mark Malekoff was announced by Leathers, as "two
minutes for cross dressing."
Long-time DECC ticket holders were likely reminded
of the Bulldogs' former public address man Bill Oswald's occasional
gaffes, including the 1989 game versus the University of Alberta
when Oswald referred to Alberta defenseman (and future Edmonton
Oiler) Ian Herbers as "Ian Herpes."
A variety of sources were used in the compilation
of this notebook.