Dzingel All the Way
Ohio State Freshman Helps Lead Buckeyes to Big Start
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
The Ohio State University's main campus in Columbus, Ohio, houses over 38,000 undergraduate students. Many student-athletes play for one of the Buckeyes' 36 varsity teams. That's a lot of people. And a lot of teams.
This winter, Ohio State boasts one of the top teams in college hockey — entering the holidays with the No. 1 ranking in the Pairwise rankings and alone on top of the CCHA standings. Recent league powerhouses — Miami, Michigan, and Notre Dame among them — have been left looking up.
And one player, one freshman among the league-high dozen rookies on the Ohio State squad, is already beginning to stand out.
Ryan Dzingel, a Wheaton, Ill., native, is the CCHA's top freshman scorer with 15 points in 17 games. Perhaps most notably, Dzingel leads the Buckeyes in assists, with 10.
"I've always been a playmaker," says Dzingel. "Coaches are always harping on me to shoot more. But I love setting my teammates up."
So far, that's been working just fine. Dzingel and his teammates have led the Buckeyes to 13 wins already — the first time Ohio State has accomplished that feat before Christmas since 1983-84.
And talk as he may about his playmaking ability, the fact is, Dzingel scored two of the Buckeyes' most memorable goals of the season — and they came just 16 seconds apart against Michigan, of course considered a rival to almost all of Dzingel's 38,000 schoolmates.
Having already defeated the Wolverines a night earlier, Ohio State found itself tied with Michigan 2-2 in the second period. Leading Michigan scorer, junior Chris Brown, took a major boarding penalty, and Dzingel cashed in twice — scoring two power-play goals mere seconds apart to put the Buckeyes ahead for good.
The sweep was Ohio State's first in Ann Arbor since Feb. 14-15, 1986 — six years before Dzingel was even born.
"Friday night, I had a tough game, and it really stung the whole night," recalled Dzingel, referring to the Buckeyes' weekend-opening 2-1 win. "I couldn't sleep. My dad was there, and he was telling me that I had to pick it up."
This source of inspiration was, of course, not entirely surprising — Dzingel's father has been a behind-the-scenes catalyst for years.
"He'll tell me when I'm playing badly," said Dzingel, who leads the second-highest-scoring freshman class in the nation (67 points). "He played college baseball and pro baseball, so he knows what it takes it takes to succeed."
This season, Dzingel has other sources of inspiration as well. The freshman is an NHL draft pick of the Ottawa Senators and attended the Senators' prospect camp over the summer, mere weeks before the 2011-12 season began.
"That made me realize how good everyone was," said Dzingel. "In the USHL, I had a lot of skill, but [at the camp], I was humbled. Everyone was that good. You have to work so much harder. I worked really hard in the offseason and got bigger and stronger."
Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki, now in his second year in Columbus, has mixed and matched line combinations on occasion this season but has found a favorite pairing for his rookie center. Playing on Dzingel's right wing has been sophomore Chris Crane, an Ohio native who leads the Buckeyes in points thus far.
Said Dzingel, "He's always in the right place at the right time. He makes my job a little easier."
Now, as Ohio State heads into a prolonged holiday break, Dzingel knows that the key will be avoiding a letdown in early 2012 — avoiding a loss of momentum built up with the Buckeyes' current 11-1-1 run.
"Osiecki really talks about how we've got to play 60 minutes," said Dzingel. "We can always control how hard we work. Play a full 60 minutes, work hard, shoot the puck, and take the body.
"Everyone's buying into it."