WOOSTER, OHIO (Tuesday, October 2, 2007) - The Youngstown State University hockey team opened their season with a 1-1 record over the past weekend; finishing in second place at the Battle of Ohio tournament in Wooster.
"Overall, I'm very proud of the way the guys played," said Penguins head coach Rocky Russo. "We played well both games, but we made some typical mistakes for it being so early in the year."
Led by Zachary Kusek's hat trick, and Michael Stokar's two goals, the 29th ranked Penguins opened with an 8-5 triumph Friday night over Bowling Green.
"Kusek was playing big, finishing his checks, and creating space for himself," said Russo. "When we needed him in the third period, he took over the game and became the best player on the ice. He scored the last three for us to help seal the deal.
"Stokar scored two of the prettiest goals I've seen in a long time. So he showed us what he was capable of as well."
Besides just the play of Kusek and Stokar, the team's aggressiveness ignited its productivity as well.
"We really took advantage of some pressure we were getting," said Russo. "We caused some turnovers, and when we got the opportunities to score, we were finishing."
The win vaulted the Penguins into the tournament's championship game Saturday night against Kent State. The 13th ranked Golden Flashes were able to break open an early 1-1 game with five unanswered goals, winning 7-2.
"We had some injuries that shortened our bench a little bit and made it difficult," Russo explained. "We had some defensive lapses too, but Kent State is just a good team."
The two tournament games acted as a warm-up and gave Russo an idea of what needs to be worked on before heading into league play this weekend.
"We've got some guys that can put the puck in the net, so we've got some talent," says Russo. "But there are definitely some things we can improve on. We're going to really have to work on the defensive zone this week. We'll need to get back to basics when it comes to that end of the ice."
Youngstown State now goes on the road Friday night to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The Penguins home opener is this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against Pittsburgh at the Ice Zone in Boardman. The Youngstown State University Hockey Team is based out of the Ice Zone and is sponsored by the B.J. Alan Company - Phantom Fireworks, located in Youngstown, Ohio.