By Jacob Allen
Hopes are high in the state capital this year, and not just for the Buckeyes. Last season, coming off only their second playoff year, the Blue Jackets fell nine points short of the postseason. They did, however, finish the season by winning twelve out of their last thirteen games, and they hope to ride that momentum into this season.
Adding a boost to those hopes is the addition of left wing Brandon Saad, who was acquired in a trade over the offseason from the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Saad, only 22, has already won two championships with the Blackhawks. The team also signed rugged center Gregory Campbell, who won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011. These two are expected to provide some much needed playoff experience for a team that has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
Last season Saad, a native of Pittsburgh, scored 23 goals and added 29 assists while playing with all-star talent in Chicago. But don’t expect a large drop-off, as he is expected to play with 2015 All-Stars Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno. Each player had career years last year while playing with each other for the majority of the season. Johansen collected 26 goals with a career high 71 points, while Foligno, who was named team captain over the summer, had a career high in goals with 31 and points with 73. Columbus hopes that adding Saad to an already great line could make it one of the best in the league.
Let’s not forget the rest of the team, however. Two wingers that each scored over twenty goals last year in Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson could flank solid two-way center Brandon Dubinsky on the team’s second line. The Jackets also have some good young talent among the bottom-six forwards, with 22-year-old Swedish center Alexander Wennberg, 22-year-old power forward Boone Jenner, and gritty 25-year-old Matt Calvert all capable of scoring at any time. Veteran forwards Jared Boll, Rene Bourque, David Clarkson, and Campbell will round out the forward group and should make an impact physically while providing occasional offense.
Defense is considered to be the weak spot of the team, but still has the pieces to contend provided they stay healthy. Ryan Murray, the former second overall pick, played in only twelve games for the team last year, and he may be their best defenseman. David Savard and Jack Johnson look to provide some offense to the blue line again this year. Savard scored 11 goals while adding 25 assists while Johnson had 8 goals and 40 points last season, and both scored 3 times while on the power play. 32-year-old Fedor Tyutin is the elder and leader of the defense, and he is vital on the penalty kill. The group will be rounded out by three 25-year-olds, in Kevin Connauton, Cody Goloubef, and Dalton Prout.
Finally, you can’t talk about the Columbus Blue Jackets without mentioning Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky, entering his fourth year with the team, has been instrumental in turning around a franchise that was mediocre for the first decade of its existence. Last season he went 30-17-3 while recording two shutouts. He has won thirty games in each of the past two seasons, and won 21 in 2013 in only 38 games. He has constantly been at the top of the leader boards in goals-against average as well as save percentage since joining the team, and may be their most valuable player. Backup goalie Curtis McElhinney went 12-14-2 last season, and can provide solid help when needed, but he can’t replace Bobrovsky.
This season this very young Blue Jackets squad needs many things to go their way. Mostly they need to stay healthy, as they led the league in man games lost last season with 502, which was a team record. They can’t afford this again, especially to crucial players like Bobrovsky, Murray, Jenner, and Dubinsky, each of whom missed significant time last season. They need the defense to play above themselves and secondary scoring from the third and fourth lines. If they could do these things you can expect to see the Columbus Blue Jackets have their best season of all-time.
By Rocco Nuosci
Once again for the third time this season, an overcast sky with buckets of rain fell over InfoCision Stadium as the Zips of U of A took on the Ohio Bobcats. The Zips entered the game looking to break a streak of seven straight losses against the Bobcats dating back to 2007. Unfortunately on this day, the Bobcats once again proved to be too much for the Zips to handle as they emerged victorious by a final of 14-12. My own team MVP for the day definitely goes to Robert Stein who was 4-4 on field goal attempts on the day as the Zips struggled all day trying to finish drives and put the ball in the end zone. Quarterback Thomas Woodson once again played the whole game and he did not play as well as Akron fans have seen him play. Finishing just 18-38 for 231 yards and an interception, Woodson was unable to lead his offense into the end zone for 6. Another big factor was the lack of Conor Hundley as a force. The big running back went for a mere 66 yards on 18 attempts. Receiver Imani Davis shined today, hauling in 5 receptions for 94 yards including an incredible back shoulder catch for 42 yards in the middle of the second quarter that had the crowd “oohing and ahhing”. Unfortunately, the Bobcat defense stepped up when it needed to and shut down the Zips offense when it mattered most. The Zips had their last chance to get it done late in the fourth quarter. A Thomas Woodson one yard keeper followed by an 8 yard sack proved too much for the Zips to overcome. A nice pass to Andrew Pratt on 3rd and long kept the Zips alive, but a failed 4th down attempt to Pratt was all the Bobcats needed to seal the victory. The Zips bench was furious looking for a flag on the Bobcat defender, but to no avail. With the loss, the Zips are now 0-1 in MAC play and will be back in action next Saturday when they travel up north to take on Eastern Michigan at 3:00.
By Jacob Allen
The Akron Zips football team will look to begin conference play on a good note when they take on the Ohio University Bobcats on Saturday in the annual homecoming game.
The Zips come in at 2-2 following back-to-back wins over Savannah State and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Bobcats, meanwhile, are 3-1 after a tough loss to Minnesota. It will be the first of eight conference games for each team.
Akron’s offense has been a big factor in the previous two wins, thanks in large part to the emergence of sophomore quarterback Thomas Woodson. After not throwing a pass in the first two games against Oklahoma and Pittsburgh, Woodson has thrown for 445 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while completing fifty percent of his passes. Woodson has also run the ball 22 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
The Zips are only passing for 181 yards per game, which is second to last in the MAC. Only Kent State has thrown for fewer yards in the conference. However, Akron does rank fourth in the MAC in rushing yards per game with 174.
The only Zip with more rushing yards than Woodson is senior running back Conor Hundley. Hundley has 51 carries over four games for 299 yards and four touchdowns. Donnell Alexander has also provided a spark for the offense rushing for 159 yards on 30 carries.
Also make sure to keep an eye on receiver Jerome Lane, who has caught seven passes for 228 yards with two touchdowns. Senior Imani Davis will also seek attention from the Bobcat’s secondary.
Keeping the ball off the turf will be a big factor also for the Zips, as Ohio has recovered six fumbles this season, which is more than any team in the country.
The Bobcats come in to this matchup flying high offensively. Ohio ranks third in the MAC in rushing with 175 yards per game and sixth in passing with 244 yards per contest.
Ohio is led by Lincoln, Nebraska native Derrius Vick at quarterback. Through four games Vick has completed 51 of his 75 passes for 742 yards with 6 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Finding a way to slow down the senior signal caller will be vital for an Akron victory.
The Zips will also need to find a way to stop the Bobcats two-headed monster at running back. Both Daz’mond Patterson and A.J. Ouellette have rushed for over 200 yards and have combined for 5 scores.
Ohio also has several pass catchers to look out for, as Sebastian Smith and Brendan Cope has each eclipsed over 200 yards, and Keith Heitzman, Papi White, and Jordan Reid each have reached the century mark in receiving.
These two MAC rivals will face off Saturday at 2 p.m. at InfoCision Stadium- Summa Field.