After competing in what may be described as a “tune up” tournament, the Kent State University A.C.H.A. D-I hockey club is readying for an upcoming pair of College Hockey Mid America (CHMA) league games.
The Golden Flashes traveled to Western New York to participate in the Buffalo Meltdown Tournament last weekend and, in their initial pair of contests, faced off against the two teams that advanced to the championship game of that event.
After dropping games to Villanova (6-2) and Niagara (2-1), Kent rebounded in their final game of the Meltdown to defeat George Mason 11-1.
“It was nice to get out with the guys considering it is our only big road trip that we take throughout the year,” commented Kent State coach Zach Nowak. “It was a good experience to get to know the players on a more personal level.”
This tournament, and other non-league early season games, allowed Nowak and his coaching staff to implement changes in preparation for league contests and provide his entire squad playing opportunities.
“We’ve had Johnny Gabriel, Koby Greenberg and Zach Zwierecki playing together, and they combined for seven goals as a group,” acknowledged Nowak.
“Our goal was to make sure that we got everyone playing time. It was definitely a good test to see where guys fit in,” continued Nowak. “We tried new things all over the line up. These guys are really supportive of each other.”
Among the lessons learned by the Golden Flashes during the tournament was the need to adapt to an Olympic size sheet of ice. (An Olympic size sheet is approximately 15 wider than the size used in the NHL and at Kent State Ice Arena.)
“We really struggled on the Olympic,” explained Nowak. “That was a big, big adjustment for us. We noticed that in the first period. We struggled with our angling and gap control.”
“When we had the puck, we were great. We had time and space and have guys that can skate pretty well. But, on the defensive end of things, it showed a lack of experience on the Olympic ice. We learned a lot from it as a coaching staff and our players learned how different that is.”
Two CHMA contests await the Golden Flashes this weekend as they travel to Gilmour Academy to play John Carroll on Friday night and host Duquesne on Saturday at the Kent State University Ice Arena.
“We talked about quite a few things, and I think we are going to look to play a little bit quicker,” offered Nowak. “That’s not as much as with our feet, as much as trying to move the puck quicker. We got caught in situations where we over-handled the puck or tried to skate it too much. We want to play a lot quicker with our movement and our decisions.”
To date, Kent has played a single CHMA game; a 3-1 victory against West Virginia University.
“When it comes to league play, we are definitely going to put our best foot forward on every lineup we put together. We understand how important those (league) games are to our entire season,” said Nowak.
Kent State’s freshman netminder Nick Beck was named one of three Stars of the Week by the CHMA after stopping 53 of 56 shots in two games played in Buffalo last week.
The Youngstown native and former Cleveland Baron AAA target sports a 5-3-0 record for his rookie season with a 3.46 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
* It was the first time the Kent State program’s history that they played Villanova.
* The puck drops at 8:10 PM on Friday against John Carroll at Gilmour Academy and 6:10 PM on Saturday at Kent State Ice Arena for the Duquesne match up.
* Kent (7-4-0) has tallied 61 goals in 11 games (5.55 goals per game average) while limiting opponents to 38 total goals (3.45 goals against average).
* Coach Nowak was a recent guest on the Ohio Hockey Digest On Air podcast. Click here to listen to his appearance.
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