The Bruins fired their outspoken coach, Don Cherry, after the season. Cherry coached the next year for the Colorado Rockies. After they finished dead last in the NHL — their slogan had been, “Come to the fights and watch a Rockies game break out!” — CBC hired Cherry as a broadcaster. His “Coaches’ Corner” segment debuted the next year and has aired on CBC ever since. Cherry is so legendary to fans of “Hockey Night in Canada” that he was once voted the seventh-greatest Canadian of all time. Alexander Graham Bell finished ninth in the same poll. Wayne Gretzky finished 10th.Cherry — if you’ve never seen him — has a populist sensibility that seems to appeal to the same part of the Canadian psyche as Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford.1Cherry was a special guest at Ford’s swearing-in ceremony as mayor in 2010. And like Ford, he isn’t much of a stickler for the rules. He loves physical hockey and hates ticky-tack penalties, like the one the Bruins got in Montreal 35 years ago.But Cherry’s experience in 1979, as much as it altered the course of Canadian and Canadien history, was more the exception than the rule. Usually in Game 7s, referees let an awful lot go and call far fewer penalties than they do in the regular season or the rest of the playoffs. Game 7s are very good environments for the physical hockey teams that Cherry likes best.Case in point: the 2010-11 Bruins, who won Boston its first Stanley Cup since 1972. In those playoffs, the Bruins became the first-ever NHL team to win three Game 7s. The Bruins were a penalty-prone team, finishing third in the league in major penalties and eighth in penalties overall. They benefited from referees swallowing their whistles in those three Game 7s; just 18 penalty minutes were called in those games, including no penalties at all in the Bruins’ conference finals win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.While a game with no penalties at all is an outlier,2There were just three during the NHL’s 2013-14 regular season, out of 1,230 games. referees routinely call fewer penalties in Game 7s. Since the 1987-88 playoffs, teams have accumulated an average of 8.6 penalty minutes per 60 minutes of ice time in Game 7s.3This assumes an average of 63 minutes of ice time per game in the playoffs and 61 in the regular season; playoff games are slightly longer because overtimes can go on indefinitely. The figures do not include bench minors — like Cherry’s too-many-men call — as Hockey-Reference.com does not track them, but these represent a small fraction of all penalties. The rate in the other six games of each playoff series is almost twice as high: 16.5 penalty minutes. It’s also almost twice as high — 16.1 penalty minutes — during the regular season.It’s unlikely that this is a fluke. Game 7s, like the one the Bruins and the Canadiens will play Wednesday and the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins will play Tuesday night, are a special treat. But there have been more than 100 of them since 1988, making for a reasonably large sample. Furthermore, there is evidence from baseball, basketball and other sports that officials are prone to passivity with more on the line. About 20 percent of power plays result in goals, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.But it’s easy to blame the refs. Is it possible that the players — as opposed to the officials — are doing something differently in Game 7s?Not in a way that would explain the discrepancies in the data. The NHL now keeps track of body checks, or hits. In Game 7s since 2009, teams have averaged 28.7 hits per 60 minutes of ice time. That’s a tiny bit lower than the rate in the first six games of the playoffs, which is 30.2 hits per 60 minutes. But it’s much higher than in the regular season, when teams average 22.2 hits. The playoffs are considerably more physical, and Game 7s are typical of the playoffs.It is true that teams get into fewer fights during the playoffs. Since 1997-98, teams have been called for 0.8 minutes’ worth of major penalties per 60 minutes of ice time in the playoffs, as compared to 2.7 per 60 minutes in the regular season. Major penalties generally mean fighting majors, so that can be taken to mean that fights are only about one-third as common in the playoffs. Perhaps there are fewer fights in Game 7 than during the rest of the playoffs — I don’t have that data handy. But fighting majors are so rare in the playoffs to begin with that they can’t account for much of the drop-off in penalty minutes in Game 7s compared to the rest of the series.Incidentally, there are more misconduct penalties called in the playoffs than during the regular season, and this trend has been especially pronounced during the past five years or so. For those of you who aren’t familiar with misconducts, they’re penalties that rule a player off the ice for either 10 minutes or the rest of the game, depending on the severity of the infraction. However, unlike major and minor penalties, they don’t give the other team a power play (although misconducts are usually called in conjunction with major or minor penalties). Thus misconducts, along with fines and suspensions from the league office, may serve as an attractive solution for officials. They serve a deterrent effect without having quite as much of a direct impact on the game as fans see it.But by Game 7, referees drop all pretense of calling the game as they usually would, despite the action remaining highly physical.Which teams might benefit from this? The next chart lists the net number of goals scored by each remaining playoff team during special-teams situations (power plays and penalty-kills; the totals include short-handed goals). The higher a team ranks on this list, the more it stands to lose from a drop-off in penalty calls. Conversely, the teams low on the list would prefer more even-strength play.The Penguins and the Rangers ranked first and third among NHL teams for net special-teams goals during the regular season. The Rangers’ power play has been awful in the playoffs so far, but that’s probably just a function of a small sample size. Still, they probably won’t mind a game with fewer penalties, especially since the Penguins’ power play is so deadly. On the other hand, the Rangers are more of a finesse than a power hockey team, so it’s not likely that they’ll just be able to check Sidney Crosby into submission, even with laxer officiating.The Bruins and the Canadiens might also be something of a wash. The Bruins recorded 17 percent more hits than the Canadiens during the regular season — but the Canadiens had 20 percent more penalty minutes. And while the Bruins have the better power play, Montreal has the better penalty-kill.If there’s a team that could benefit from the Game 7 officiating style, it could be the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings led the league in hits during the regular season, and while they avoided fighting majors, they had the fourth-highest number of minor penalties in the league. They also have an anemic power play and just an average penalty-kill, which made them net-negative in special-teams goals during the regular season.Don Cherry is still an unabashed Bruins fan, but the Kings fit his style the best, avoiding blatant cheap shots but otherwise pushing the limits of legal play. If they beat the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow to advance to a Game 7, they might have better luck than Cherry did. In 1979, the Boston Bruins, facing the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals, had a one-goal lead with 2 minutes and 34 seconds to play in the third period. But then the Bruins were whistled for a bench minor during a sloppy shift change — too many men on the ice. You can probably guess what happened next. Canadiens’ legend Guy Lafleur scored on the ensuing power play to tie the score. The Canadiens won in overtime.
The fleeting public outrage was enough to force the NFL to reconsider its personal conduct policy, but the league hasn’t yet codified many policies. Public pressure to do so, meanwhile, along with the media spotlight, has largely disappeared. In early September, the story of Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City casino exploded in the media, sparking a debate about how to prevent — and respond to — domestic violence in the NFL and society at large. But why September? The actual assault happened in February, and yet it took almost seven months for media coverage to reach its height, according to a search of Lexis-Nexis.The answer is simple: On Sept. 8, TMZ released the video of the assault, which brought the story back into the news. But even then, our attention spans — perhaps unsurprisingly — are short. Here’s a more detailed look at the media coverage that Rice, as well as the overall issue of domestic violence in the NFL, has received since the beginning of September.For the week following the video’s release, articles mentioning “Ray Rice” averaged about 1,900 per day, according to Lexis-Nexis; articles mentioning both “domestic violence” and “NFL” averaged nearly 1,120 per day. The past week, however, pales in comparison: “Ray Rice” has been written about 37 times per day, and “domestic violence” and “NFL” have been mentioned in 44 articles per day. This is despite news that Rice could be reinstated as soon as next month.Rather, NFL news is back to covering on-the-field events. For example, Google Trends shows news about Peyton Manning has been chugging along at about the same rate (not including the recent surge in coverage of his breaking the career touchdown record) and has overtaken headlines about Rice.
4Warriors2014-156/16/15103✓1822.3 10Pistons1988-896/13/8999✓1788.1 1Bulls1995-966/9/9697✓1853.1 There was plenty of “greatest of all time” speculation swirling around the Golden State Warriors at this time last year, as they tore through the Western Conference after breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record for regular-season victories. As it turns out, though, the Warriors weren’t even the greatest team of the 2015-16 season, since they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. I suppose we all learned our collective lesson, because there hasn’t been anywhere near as much GOAT chatter this time around.The irony, of course, is that this version of the Warriors might actually be the best NBA team ever. Although they “only” won 67 games during the regular season, the 2016-17 Warriors had a better schedule-adjusted point differential than they did in their 73-win season, and then they rattled off what is so far the most dominant postseason of any team in recent memory (including the fabled 2001 L.A. Lakers).And if they can take care of Cleveland without much trouble in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, they’ll officially become the GOAT — at least, according to the Elo ratings, our pet system for judging an NBA team’s strength at any given moment.As my boss wrote on Saturday, the LeBron James Cavaliers have had a tendency to make Elo look silly. But by now, Elo has learned from its mistakes and is (mostly) giving Cleveland its due. The main reason our prediction system is still giving the Cavs a minuscule 10 percent chance of defending their championship, then, is that the Warriors are just so ridiculously dominant.Golden State’s Elo rating is currently 1850.5, which ranks second in NBA history to the peak rating of the ’96 Bulls (1853.1) — which was set after Chicago took a 3-0 lead over the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals. (The Bulls’ Elo would dip to a final rating of 1823 after they lost two of the next three games to the Sonics.) TEAMSEASONDATEGAME NO.DURING PLAYOFFS?ELO 3Warriors2015-1612/11/15241838.6 The best peak Elo ratings in NBA history 6Bulls1996-972/4/97471811.3 9Bulls1997-986/10/98101✓1788.3 8Lakers2008-096/14/09105✓1790.0 7Spurs2015-163/19/16691800.1 2Warriors2016-175/22/1794✓1850.5 5Celtics1985-865/29/8696✓1815.7 To surpass those Bulls and set a new peak-Elo record of 1853.2, the Warriors would need to prevail by eight or more on Thursday night. That’s far from an unreasonable goal; Golden State has the superior rating and is at home, so Elo actually considers them nine-point favorites for Game 1. (The Las Vegas betting line for Game 1 has the Warriors winning by seven.) According to research by Wayne Winston and Jeff Sagarin, the probability of a nine-point NBA favorite winning by at least eight is about 54 percent.But even if Cleveland plays the Warriors close in Game 1, a new Elo record is inevitable as long as Golden State keeps winning. A string of one-point victories in Games 1 through 3 would be enough to push the Warriors past the Bulls’ mark with at least a game to spare in the series. But any loss could be a major setback for the record-breaking bid. Even a three-point loss in Game 1 would need to be followed by four straight four-point wins to pull Golden State ahead of Chicago; a stray double-digit loss would require four 10-point wins in a row. And two losses in the series might prove too much for the Warriors to overcome unless they also rack up offsetting blowout wins, particularly if the Cavs’ wins are spaced apart in the series (Elo gives more weight to more recent games).Then again, it’s also possible that the Warriors could set an all-time peak Elo record after Game 1 and then the Cavs could rally back to win the series. In that scenario, Golden State’s season would parallel that of the 2007 New England Patriots, who set the NFL’s peak Elo record when they rattled off 18 straight wins before losing the Super Bowl. We’re guessing the Warriors would probably rather have the title. Source: ESPN, Basketball-Reference.com
The rookies were a different story. Jackson famously preferred Jahlil Okafor to Porzingis, but should be credited for taking a talented but risky prospect. The same goes for trading second-round pick swaps for Willy Hernangomez, a viable center of the future, provided we live long enough to see a future without Joakim Noah on the books, and signing Mindaugas Kuzminskas. And last week’s draft selection, 18-year-old Frank Ntilikina, is a risky, home-run type pick at a draft position in which Jackson could have taken safer players with lower ceilings.Using the same CARMELO method as we did for the veterans, the key Knicks rookies look far better. They project to produce $203 million by 2020, but will have been paid just shy of $43 million. Naturally, that surplus is made possible by the nature of the rookie scale, which artificially depresses pay for young players, but even going only by the real and projected value, this group of young players has been and will be worth far more than the veterans Jackson acquired. And the value isn’t all tied up in Porzingis, either — Hernangomez and Ntilikina both project to produce at a high level.With Jackson on the way out, the expectation is that coach Jeff Hornacek will have the freedom to move away from Jackson’s much derided triangle offense. Dolan is teasing the idea of chasing former Denver Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri, who helped pants New York in the ill-advised trade for Anthony, and then again in the even more lopsided Andrea Bargnani deal a few seasons later when Ujiri was working for the Toronto Raptors. (Somewhat infamously, Ujiri nearly traded Toronto’s star point guard Kyle Lowry to New York before Dolan, hesitant to be humiliated by Ujiri once again, called off the trade at the 11th hour.)The Knicks, who were 80-166 under Jackson, 29.5 games under their preseason Vegas win totals, are in possession of all of their future first-round draft picks for the first time in a decade.2Hell, the last time the Knicks’ draft outlook was promising for consecutive years was 2005 and 2006, when they had back-to-back seasons with multiple first-rounders. In 2005 they drafted Channing Frye and David Lee, and traded Kurt Thomas for Quentin Richardson and the draft rights to Nate Robinson. The following season, the team drafted Renaldo Balkman and Mardy Collins. Things are looking up.And so the Knicks move on to the next stage of their development, better off than they were three seasons ago. Phil Jackson did a good job — except for the parts where he didn’t. Or perhaps he did a world-historically bad job, except for a few draft picks that went his way. It was a mixed bag, full of drama and triangles, and maybe the best thing to be said about Jackson’s Knicks is that they never managed to completely bungle the future. But in this town, that’s not nothing. It’s borderline groundbreaking. Stick around long enough and even the New York Knicks might have a bright future to sell you.VIDEO: Phil Jackson’s legacy with the Knicks isn’t all bad In just three full seasons, Phil Jackson inflicted as much psychic distress on the New York Knicks fanbase as any executive in New York’s recent, storied, terrible history. Jackson signed with the Knicks on March 18, 2014. News broke on Wednesday morning that he’s leaving.Yet the fans’ discomfort was only possible, in large part, because Jackson’s front office drafted well and unearthed talented young players. Jackson built the team of the future, and then set about imperiling it.Jackson’s exit ends several weeks of turmoil which saw him feud openly with Carmelo Anthony over his no-trade clause (which Jackson himself negotiated) and entertain trade possibilities for Kristaps Porzingis, either in earnest or to send the young star a message to fall in line. It was a messy end, but then, things have been a mess for a while now.In Jackson’s first offseason, he made the biggest decision of his tenure: re-signing Anthony to a 5-year, $124 million contract, which included a no-trade clause. He also traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for then-33-year-old Jose Calderon, a handful of cap filler and a pair of second round picks. Not quite an earth-moving rebuild, but not terrible.The following season, the Knicks made a three-team deal that sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland (and three straight Finals appearances), but returned three marginal players and a 2019 second-round pick. That offseason, the team drafted Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick, and signed Robin Lopez to a 4-year, $55 million deal. The roster rounded out with peripheral free agents Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams and a trade for Kyle O’Quinn. Then the real trouble began.In the summer of 2016, Jackson signed Joakim Noah to a 4-year, $72 million contract, and traded Lopez (and his favorable contract), rookie Jerian Grant and Calderon to the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday and a second round pick. Rose remained a ghost of his former self; Noah was injured, ineffective and more expensive than Lopez.Going by FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system,1CARMELO has been updated to once again use Real Plus-Minus, though it’s now blended with Box Plus-Minus. We’ll have more details in a few days, but for now, these numbers won’t match the ones in the interactive. we can see just how badly Jackson overshot on the veterans he acquired. The seven most significant players he brought in or re-signed — Anthony, Rose, Noah, Afflalo, Courtney Lee, Lopez and Calderon — made or will make a combined $253 million from the 2014-15 season to the end of the 2019-20 season from the Knicks. Over that same time, they will have produced $134 million of value. The Knicks overpaid by half.
The Golden State Warriors beat the brakes off of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday in a 126-91 win. Basketball fans are fairly well trained not to extrapolate too much of the regular season to what will happen in the postseason, but with a walloping this thorough it’s natural to wonder if the Cavs have any chance in the Finals.But after two Warriors-Cavs games this season, we likely still haven’t seen what the teams will look like if they meet for the third Finals in a row this June.Basketball matchups aren’t really between teams, they’re between lineups. Fans are familiar with the famous five-man units, like the Warriors’ Death Lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, or the Megadeath Lineup, which swaps out Barnes for Kevin Durant. But the ramifications of more minor adjustments can be profound: In last season’s Finals, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Richard Jefferson, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson outscored opponents by 26.9 points per 100 possessions in 66 minutes; but when they swapped out Thompson for Iman Shumpert for 14 minutes, the Cavs were outscored by 16 points, or 56.6 points per 100 possessions.So lineups matter. And during the regular season, the Cavs’ and Warriors’ Finals lineups don’t play each other very much.The Cavs’ five most-favored lineups against the Warriors during the regular season have played a combined two minutes against them in the Finals. Two minutes! Obviously, injuries have been a factor: Kevin Love missed all the 2015 Finals, and Kyrie Irving was injured in Game 1 and did not play again in the series. But considering the most-played lineup against Golden State in 2016-17 includes DeAndre Liggins, and neither J.R. Smith nor Kyle Korver appears in a top-5 lineup, it’s a safe bet that we haven’t seen Cleveland’s preferred lineups against Golden State.The Warriors haven’t been much more consistent. In 2014-15, the five lineups that played most161 percent of available minutes. against the Cavs in the Warriors’ regular season games played 45 percent of available minutes in the Finals, anchored largely by the Death Lineup, which played 24 percent of the minutes (most of any lineup in that Finals) and outscored the Cavs by 21.8 points per 100 possessions.Last season, however, an injury to Bogut and a slump from Barnes threw the Warriors into disarray, as their five most favored lineups against the Cavs from the regular season played just 15 percent of available minutes in the Finals. Plus, the Death lineup didn’t play the Cavs enough during the regular season to crack the top five (and it was outscored by 12 per 100 possessions in 53 minutes anyway).All of which is to say that while the Warriors have reconstituted their roster since blowing a 3-1 lead to the Cavs in the Finals, it’s likely both teams will shuffle things again between now and June.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
OSU sophomore offensive lineman Isaiah Prince (59) fights back tears after the Buckeyes 24-21 loss to Penn State on Oct. 22. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorAlthough the Ohio State football team has sustained losses to unranked opponents in previous years, the 24-21 loss on Saturday to the Penn State Nittany Lions is a tough one to take for fans. For players like freshman starting guard Michael Jordan and freshman defensive end Nick Bosa, the defeat is their first in their collegiate careers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.Going through a tough loss early in a career can be a motivation for improving upon the mistakes. Presenting a young team against Virginia Tech in 2014, OSU suffered a potentially season-ruining loss to the Hokies.After starting the year 1-1, the Buckeyes responded with 13-straight wins by an average margin of victory of just over 26 points. A youthful team responded to adversity with open arms, allowing themselves to grow from the loss to a team deemed subpar to OSU.OSU coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that the loss is not season ending, and needs to be a lesson for the young members of the team.“Move forward,” he said. “Let it hurt for awhile.”The feeling of losing is new to more than one of the team members, but slip ups from the unit were expected. The fact the Buckeyes are still within the top 10, and have the chance to still make the playoffs with a team full of young players serves as a beacon of hope. Both veterans and underclassmen were visibly upset as they left the field. Sophomore right tackle Isaiah Prince was fighting back tears while walking off, along with redshirt senior center Pat Elflein, who spoke to the media with a heavy voice. A fifth-year player, Elflein has been through all five of Meyer’s loses while at OSU. Even though the loss stings, he said it is something the young members of the team need to experience and use to keep playoff hopes alive.“Something you don’t want to feel, but you got to remember that feeling,” Elflein said. “That’s what has got to power you through, that feeling right there. You never want to feel that again.”Unlike the team’s only loss of 2015, the Buckeyes dropped their first game of the year at the midway point. With time still left on the clock, OSU can easily regroup and get back on the right path.The youth of the team might have caused OSU problems, but can also help the team down the road. The team understood there would be growing pains, and there would be times the young players would need to step up when faced with a challenge. Against Oklahoma, most fans felt the team had it’s largest moment of growth. In retrospect, the loss to Penn State should serve as a coming of age moment for the Buckeyes.Redshirt junior guard Billy Price, who played against Penn State in 2014 in Beaver Stadium, said he understood the feelings the young players were going through. However, he said the youth of the team is not the problem.“We are young, we are young. There are a lot of young guys in there. They’re playing well,” Price said. “They have to play for us and they have to execute. If we don’t execute that’s where we have issues like this.”Rather than singling out the poor play of specific players, Price said the loss was on the team as a whole, and its inability to execute the gameplan to perfection. He, like other Buckeyes, said this is a growing moment.Like in 2014, the team will be attempting to regroup from a loss at the hands of a non-ranked opponent. But, the loss was expected in some regards, due to the young nature of the team. Just like two years ago when the team went on a rampage after losing, OSU will have to prove the legitimacy of the team by winning games in convincing fashion. And, just like the national championship season, young players and new starters will have to give it their all.And giving it all was a sentiment redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett expressed explicitly on Monday. “We’re gonna find out what we’re made of,” he said. “I think that’s how you really see people. Anybody can be doing fine when we’re winning games, but when your back is against the wall, things are going against us, that shows your true character and true colors.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer watches as the Buckeyes warm-up before their game against Nebraska on Nov. 5. The Buckeyes won 62-3. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorCoach Urban Meyer has signed a top-10 recruiting class every year he’s been at Ohio State, but the upcoming 2017 class, which becomes official on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, is his best by a wide margin. OSU’s 2017 class consists of five five-star players – Meyer has signed just six in his previous five classes combined. Of the 19 current commits, 12 are ranked in the top five at their position and 16 are ranked in the top 15. Even OSU’s lone three-star and lowest-rated commit, kicker Blake Haubeil, is the top player at his position. “When you compare the class to its predecessors at Ohio State, it’s pretty clear: this is the most talented and accomplished class in Urban Meyer’s brief stint in Columbus,” said Jeremy Birmingham, director of recruiting at Land of 10. “There are no holes, no weaknesses.” Not only is the class good by OSU standards, its average player rating is the highest ever recorded by recruiting services. “It’s arguably the most-talented team of all-time, if you look at it on a per-recruit basis,” said Andrew Lind, football recruiting analyst at Eleven Warriors. “Florida’s 2010 class is considered the gold standard by recruiting services with a 93.55 average. Ohio State’s current class — with 19 commits — sits at an unheard-of 95.20.” The 2017 class has a chance to get even better by National Signing Day as the Buckeyes are finalists for a number of players making their college decisions, including the nation’s top defensive tackle, Marvin Wilson. OSU also seeks commitments from four-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele, and four-star offensive lineman Thayer Munford. While he thinks they will miss out on both defensive tackles, Lind said an OSU commitment from Munford is “all but certain.” Despite the class’ historic average player rating, Birmingham and Lind agreed that Alabama — not OSU — will likely have the top class in the final 247Sports rankings, but it’s not quite black and white. “It’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison to Alabama’s recruiting class because the Crimson Tide have six more players committed than the Buckeyes do,” Birmingham said. “But it’s absolutely a toss-up nationally between the two.” If the Buckeyes do finish behind Alabama, it will be OSU’s second No. 2 recruiting class since Meyer’s arrival. The first No. 2 fish was the 2013 class, which helped lead the Buckeyes to the 2014 national title and break an NFL Draft record with 10 players taken in the first three rounds. “Being highly ranked doesn’t guarantee success like the 2013 class had,” Birmingham said. “But it’s a good start.” ‘Editor’s note: Kevin Harrish is a staff writer for Eleven Warriors.
Following a less-than-stellar first half of the season, the men’s hockey team is looking to improve in the second half, starting with two games against Bowling Green. The Buckeyes were just 7-12-1 through their first 20 games this season and are ninth in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.But with 14 games remaining, all of them in-conference, the Buckeyes believe they can gain ground in the CCHA. “We’re feeling good about where we could be if we put things together and our guys are excited about that,” coach John Markell said.The Buckeyes haven’t played a game since Dec. 12, but resumed practice Dec. 28 and have used the time to improve on their power play and penalty kill. “We videoed our [penalty kill] everyday and our power play every day. We know how important that is,” Markell said. “The power play obviously needs to click for us.”The Buckeyes found themselves in the penalty box often in their first 20 games, which Markell acknowledged as another area of concern. “We can’t be caught in the penalty box a lot; that puts stress on too many things. Every little thing is magnified.” Improvement on the special teams — the power play and penalty kill — could reciprocate on the scoreboard and in the standings.Forwards Sergio Somma and Zac Dalpe noticed an increased intensity in practice since the team has come back. “In practice there were a couple scuffles on the ice and that’s good to see. Guys are working hard,” Somma said. “It says the intensity is there in practice. A high level of energy and intensity. Obviously that spawns winning and that spawns good teams.”Somma and the rest of the Buckeyes will put that intensity to the test against in-state rival Bowling Green this weekend. The teams have a bit of familiarity with each other from playing in the CCHA and having met in the postseason last year. Bowling Green comes into the weekend struggling (3-15-2), but no one at Ohio State is taking them lightly, especially coach Markell.“We know Bowling Green is a very hard-working team,” Markell said. “It’s going to take everything we can muster up to beat them. You have to be at a competitive level each and every night or it will sting you. You don’t get by with taking any short cuts in college hockey.”There is some concern whether OSU will be able to be at that competitive level after their recent hiatus from play. “Realistically we haven’t played a game in a month. There is going to be a little rust there,” Markell said. “Bowling Green is going to have two games under their belt.” The Falcons played two games last weekend and look to be sharp coming into Columbus.However, Somma is confident the team will be ready. “We’ve been conditioning a lot, but at the same time there is nothing like actually playing a game, so I’m sure it will take a good half period to get your legs back and get to game speed,” he said. “But we’re not out of shape by any means.”OSU will need to get back to game speed quickly if they’re going to beat Bowling Green this weekend. The games are Friday and Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Seven members of the Ohio State men’s track and field team qualified for the NCAA championships over the weekend at preliminaries in Bloomington, Ind. All-American junior Michael Hartfield added to an already successful year and qualified in the long jump by placing fifth with a jump of 7.74 meters. “Making nationals is a great feeling because it gives you recognition as being one of the best in your event,” Hartfield said. “I’m just trying to stay humble and hopeful.” With a season-high jump of 7.95 meters at the Drake Relays earlier in the season, Hartfield has the potential to advance further in the NCAA championships. Junior Thomas Murdaugh qualified for NCAA championships in both the 400-meter dash and the 4-by-400-meter relay. In the 400-meter dash, Murdaugh finished 11th overall with a time of 46.34 seconds. Murdaugh, along with senior Aaron Roberts, sophomore Korbin Smith and sophomore Marvel Brooks, finished eighth in the 4-by-400-meter relay with a time of 3:06.5. For Roberts, the relay team’s Big Ten championship and NCAA qualification have capped off an incredible senior season. “It’s an undescribable joy to finally make it to nationals my senior year,” Roberts said. “I’ve been training for 10 years for this opportunity, and I’m blessed and thankful that I have a chance to compete at NCAAs.” In the distance field, junior Jake Edwards qualified for the NCAA championships with a 12th-place finish in the 1,500 meter run with a time of 3:48.23. Junior Cory Leslie posted a career-best 8:40.49 in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, nearly five seconds faster than his previous career high, which he posted at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. “It feels great, and I’m excited,” Leslie said. “I’m looking forward to getting there and competing against the best in the country.” The NCAA championships will take place June 8–11 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Ohio State senior defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle (93) waits for a USC snap in the second quarter of the 2017 Cotton Bowl against University of Southern USC: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe Carolina Panthers signed former Ohio State defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle as an undrafted free agent, Ohio State announced Saturday evening following the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft. Sprinkle played at Ohio State for four seasons, ending his college career with 20 tackles in 28 games. He was on a Buckeye defensive line that held teams to fewer than three yards per rush last season, giving up an average of just 2.94 yards per carry. Only five teams in the nation held opponents to fewer than three yards per carry.He also helped an Ohio State defense that finished last season with the sixth-fewest rushing yards allowed per game in the country.Sprinkle was not invited to the NFL combine, but participated in Ohio State’s pro day on March 22.