November 28, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Dalpe a Bang for the Buck-eyes

by Nick Lowman/CHN Reporter

The calm before the storm lasted only two games into the season before Ohio State freshman Zac Dalpe erupted for 11 points in the last eleven games. Not surprisingly, his performance lead to two CCHA Rookie of the Week honors and is the top ranked freshman in the conference in scoring.

But it wasn’t long ago that Dalpe received little interest from the college ranks due in large part to his size. However, with his auspicious impression with the Ontario Jr. B Stratford Cullitons, things changed rather quickly.

“I was under the radar a bit and there wasn’t a whole of colleges interested in me,” Dalpe said. “All three coaches from Ohio State made it a point to visit me individually and get to know me personally and I really respected that. Hopefully I can help contribute as much as possible to this program.”

His development led to him becoming a high draft pick last June, and he could've skipped school all together, and gone to the pros. But he turned that down and stayed with his commitment to Ohio State.

So far the freshman forward has delivered as advertised, leading the Buckeyes with seven goals and tied for the team lead with 11 total points. More importantly, Dalpe has helped Ohio State get off to a much better start this season with a 6-6-1 overall record (4-5-1 CCHA), compared to only a single win in their first 12 contests last season.

Although the Buckeyes still return a young team trying to find consistency, the experience from last season is becoming more radiant. In their last five games, Ohio State is 4-1 with three shutouts and key wins against Michigan State and Northern Michigan.

“They were a really young team last year and I think the experience has helped us improve this season,” said Dalpe. “Guys are more comfortable playing with each other and that helps with the team chemistry and creating more scoring opportunities.”

Despite Dalpe’s youthfulness, it hasn’t taken long for the Buckeye’s leading goal scorer to catch on to the level of play after posting two multi-goal games earlier this season.

“The biggest adjustments for me are the size and speed of the college game,” Dalpe explained. “You’re playing against older guys who play quicker and so I’ve had to adapt to that style of play.”

And he seems to be doing just that. Playing at a very high intensity level, Dalpe is lethal offensively and can finish with the best of them. A second round pick (45th overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2008 NHL Draft, the offensive sniper carries tremendous puck handling and playmaking abilities. But what really separates this kid from most college players is his solid two-way play at both ends of the ice.

“Obviously, I’m a threat offensively and I like to score goals and be around the net,” Dalpe said. “But I can also set-up plays and can play both ends of the ice well and help out defensively.”

Last season Ohio State finished with a minus-25 rating and so far in the early going, the jump is on the other side of the equation with a plus-20. They’ve committed themselves on both sides of the puck and have become a more cohesive team that is invigorating.

Even more encouraging is that the Buckeyes are getting balance scoring and have continued to hone their skills to be a more competitive team. After a bit of a boisterous start to the season Ohio State has been able to right the ship with solid goaltending and strong play down the middle.

“The guys I play with have been tremendous,” Dalpe said. We take it game by game and it’s important for us to stay calm and level-headed.”

With seven of their first 13 games on the road, the Buckeyes have benefited from having the opportunity to bond together away from the rink. It appears it’s just what this young team needs in order to be successful.

“I think we’ve started to gel more off the ice,” Dalpe said. “We try to keep things upbeat and fun.”

As this young group continues to develop and grow together, it is more likely that this program could be in a quick transformation mode. After being at the bottom of the standings all of last season, Ohio State has taken small steps forward and now find themselves only two points out of second place in the conference.

For Dalpe, playing in the rigorous CCHA will only help develop him into a better player and prepare for the next level.

“I think the biggest thing I need to improve on is my strength,” Dalpe said. “I came here to work hard at becoming a stronger hockey player.”

As he continues to build on his 6-foot-1, 175 pound frame, it’s clear that this freshman center will wreck havoc on many blue liners in the future. And with as much offensive skill as anyone in the country, it’s just flat out fun to watch, including shootouts.

“I’ve only been involved in one shootout so far, but their exciting for the fans,” Dalpe said. “I don’t have a particular move I use, but I need to continue to work on my offensive skills to be better.”

Successful in his only shootout attempt, the offensive catalyst has been a real spark for the buckeyes this season. He’s slowly changing the direction of the program and although there is a lot of work to do before contending with the CCHA frontrunners, he’ll play a big role in how far this team can go. So slap a buckeye sticker on his helmet and enjoy the ride Columbus.

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