HOCKEY

The Kent Island Bay Times - - SPORTS -

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.

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