checks and subtle bumps, or dropping the gloves and gooning it up every time someone hit him or flashed a menacing glare.
“I don’t find myself in the (penalty) box that often,” said Olds, a defensiveminded forward who this year played on the Mountaineers’ top two lines. “Before college I found myself in the box a lot. I just became a little bit more calm. My hits became a little more controlled.”
Still, for Danny and Ellen Olds’s oldest son, scoring and the violent side were only two parts.
The whole was about working a down-ice rush, looking for the open man, and applying pressure on goal. It was taking a feed, teeing up a slap shot from the point, or gathering a head pass and giving the goalie a deke before sliding or snapping the puck into the net. It was about holding the blue line and keeping the puck in the offensive zone. It was about hustling back on defense, forechecking, dropping to block a screaming puck, and diffusing the opposition’s best intentions. It was about doing your job on the power play and the penalty kill.
“The thing I think of first with Nick is that willingness to sacrifice himself,” West Virginia head coach A.J. Sturges said. “Nick brings a lot of consistency. He’s always willing to block a shot or take a hit to make a play. And he’s somebody who’s always going to go out with the mindset that he’s on the ice to make an impact. I see that a lot out of him. He’s very selfless.”
The game was also about corners, skating without hesitation into one of the more treacherous spots on the ice.
Players can get hit, tripped, high-sticked, flipped and taken out practically anywhere in the open ice. Corner work is more confined — and potentially more unforgiving. The act of retrieving the puck, spotting a moving teammate, then trying to thread a pass onto the tape of his stick may sound easy enough — if you’ve played the game. But corner play is often about grinding while trying to pry a 5½ to 6-ounce piece of vulcanized rubber that measures 1 inch thick, 3 inches in diameter out of the corner, usually with your head down and back turned.
It’s about trying to leverage an opponent out of the way while trying to gain traction on a pair of oversized razor blades. It’s about maintaining focus while seemingly all around you are taking whacks at your legs, arms, back, and head, throwing elbows and crosschecks, or at times even flying from across ice with the idea of slamming you into a wedge of glass — that has little give — or the boards — which have absolutely none unless hit by a runaway Zamboni — in an effort to possess the same thing you’re after, whether in the offensive or defensive end.
“He’s a guy that will throw himself into a play when maybe it looks like he can’t make it, and he finds a way to disrupt things,” Sturges said.
Corners are dangerous. And it’s where the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Olds has done some of his best work.