Ohio State defenseman Justin DaSilva hasn’t just played in a countless number of hockey arenas throughout Ontario, he has also had a hand in building one. This venture into construction taught him valuable life lessons and helped shape the person and player he is today.
In summers between seasons playing junior hockey, DaSilva worked for a family friend’s construction company doing anything from demolition to landscaping. When the company got a bid to renovate the Albert McCormick Community Centre in Waterloo, Ont., DaSilva was particularly intrigued because of the venue. An older ice arena in need of renovation, DaSilva said the building was just an empty shell with a large pile of dirt in the middle of it.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘oh my God, this is gonna be crazy,’” DaSilva said. “Because it’s honestly just me, (the owner) and one other guy that took on the job.”
Just 16-years-old at the time, DaSilva had very little construction experience but what he did have was a commitment and willingness to learn, much like his approach to hockey.
“I went into construction blind pretty much, I didn’t know much at all,” DaSilva said. “Every single day I went to work I learned something new. I think that’s the same as hockey. You go to the rink every single day wanting to make your game better so whether that’s shooting, that’s stick-handling … the greatest players in the world are still working on their skills and I think that’s kinda the same thing.”
From leveling out the dirt and mapping out where the rink was going to be, to installing hundreds of yards of piping for the cooling system and connecting the boards, DaSilva had a hand in many different aspects of constructing the arena.
“It was kind of rewarding in the sense that, one, I’m a hockey player,” he said. “I came to the rink every day to use the rink so I never got to build one and see how it actually worked. Then, two, it’s rewarding in the sense that I’m giving other people opportunities to play the game that I love.”
Following the experience, DaSilva gave credit to people in construction referencing the early mornings and long days of hard work. He said that commitment certainly trickled into his approach to hockey, developing a work ethic devoted to long hours perfecting his game.
“I’d like to think of myself as one of the harder workers on our team,” he said. “I’m usually one that’s in the gym all the time and staying out (on the ice) extra if I need to or getting out early before. Even things like stretching every single day, just doing the little things because I think that translates big time into my game.”
With 116 career games played for the Buckeyes, DaSilva is the most-seasoned veteran on the blue line. At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, the big-bodied defenseman imposes a physical game on his opponents and makes his presence felt on the ice. He leads the team with 46 blocked shots and while he anchors the team’s defensive effort, DaSilva has been involved with the offense as of late. In two wins against Penn State last weekend, DaSilva picked up points in both games, stringing together back-to-back points for the first time since Jan. 25-31, 2014.
The Buckeyes made a run to the B1G conference championship game last season as the fourth-seed in the tournament. In fifth-place this season, OSU will need DaSilva’s reliable, bring your lunch pail to work-type effort if the Buckeyes want to make a return to the championship game.
No. 16 MICHIGAN (11-5-0, 19-11-0)
OVERVIEW: Michigan took care of business against a last-place Wisconsin team with two dominant wins in Ann Arbor last week. The Wolverines extended their lead to three points in the standings with four games to go, putting them in a strong position to claim the conference’s top spot. There are still plenty of questions left unanswered for UM, as the goaltending situation is murky with junior Steve Racine and sophomore Zach Nagelvoort both demonstrating strong performances as well as weak, inconsistent efforts throughout the season. Racine — with a .908 save percentage and 2.90 goals against average — has been in net for the team’s last three wins. However, a poor performance against either Penn State this week or Michigan State next week could propel Nagelvoort — a .908 save percentage and 2.65 goals against average — right back into the picture as the postseason grows closer.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sophomore J.T. Compher’s five-game pointless drought from Jan. 24 to Feb. 14 was the longest of his collegiate career and the team suffered, losing three of five in that stretch. Compher bounced back in a big way, though, with four goals and five points in the last four games including his first-career hat trick for UM in a 5-2 win against the Badgers on Saturday. Forwards Dylan Larkin and Zach Hyman will draw plenty of attention come tournament time, so Compher heating up at the end of the season is a good sign for a Wolverines team that may find themselves in need of secondary scoring if their star players struggle.
THIS WEEKEND: at Penn State, Mar. 6-7.
MICHIGAN STATE (8-6-2, 14-14-2)
OVERVIEW: The Spartans earned an important series split with Minnesota last week, keeping them within striking distance of possibly jumping the Gophers as they’re separated by just two points in the standings. Like the Wolverines last week, MSU will need a series sweep against UW this week in order to at least keep pace in the standings and hope that Minnesota waivers on the road at OSU. The season series between the Spartans and Badgers is one game apiece after UW stole a victory in a low-scoring, 2-1 game two weeks ago. For MSU to earn two wins this week, coach Tom Anastos must get his team to focus on their game and not the opponent’s, as the Spartans defense and goaltending can dictate the outcome in East Lansing.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Matt Berry leads the Spartans in assists (15) and points (23) despite playing six fewer games and is looking to finish his final season at MSU with a statement. Berry was a healthy scratch from Dec. 6 to Jan. 17, and in that absence, he refocused his approach and has since had a significant impact on an otherwise struggling offense. In 10 games since being absent from the lineup, Berry is averaging a point per game and his abilities as a playmaker makes others on the ice better. He had two assists in the Spartans’ 4-2 win over Minnesota and fuels the MSU power play with two goals and 10 points on the man advantage.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. Wisconsin, Mar. 6-7.
No. 15 MINNESOTA (9-4-3, 18-11-3)
OVERVIEW: The Gophers’ 4-2 loss to MSU on Friday may have cost them a shot at a regular-season conference championship. Instead of controlling their own destiny, the Gophers will need the Wolverines to slip up at least once in the next two weeks as the conference’s top team has a three-point lead on the rest of the field. Minnesota was out-shot 34-24 by the B1G’s fifth-ranked MSU offense and cannot afford another blunder with four games left. The Gophers scored 10 total goals in two victories over OSU on Feb. 6-7, so they should be able to take care of business on the road this weekend against the Buckeyes as Minnesota averages the second-most goals in the conference at 3.5 goals per game.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Kyle Rau moved into 26th all-time on the Minnesota career points list with a power-play goal in the third period on Friday. The goal was the 62nd of his career and his 156th career point, and the Gophers will need their team captain to be his best yet in the final games of his senior season. Rau has 15 goals and will flirt with a fourth consecutive 40-point season as he has 33 with four games and the postseason looming. He has 17 power-play points for the B1G’s best PP unit and also spends significant time on the penalty kill as well. Playing in all facets of the game, Rau will be at the center of a playoff push should the Gophers make a run.
THIS WEEKEND: at Ohio State, Mar. 6-7.
OHIO STATE (6-10-0, 11-17-2)
OVERVIEW: The Buckeyes came to life against Penn State last week winning back-to-back games for the first time this season. A team that once lost six consecutive games has now won four of the last six including a 5-3 victory over UM. While the Buckeyes are in fifth-place in the B1G and shouldn’t threaten to move up in the standings, they could very well play the roll of spoiler after upsetting PSU last week and another chance this week against Minnesota. Regardless of their standing, the Buckeyes have been playing their best hockey of the season averaging 3.67 goals per game in the last six and will play with nothing to lose; a dangerous combination as the home team welcomes a contending Minnesota squad.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior Tanner Fritz has scored a goal in four consecutive games, the longest streak of his career. He also has four assists in that span and now has 35 goals and 106 points in four seasons with the Buckeyes. Fritz leads the team with 23 points in 2014-15, and is one of two players to appear in all 30 games this season. Fritz sparked an OSU power play that produced goals in both games against PSU, as he assisted on one and scored another on the man advantage. He leads the Buckeyes with four power-play goals and nine power-play points and has four points in seven career games against the Gophers.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. No. 15 Minnesota, Mar. 6-7.
PENN STATE (8-7-1, 16-12-4)
OVERVIEW: The Nittany Lions still have an outside shot at claiming the conference’s top spot with four games left, but has the toughest road remaining with series against UM and Minnesota. Losing five of the last six, PSU won’t have an easy time righting the ship against a Wolverines team that put up eight goals in a blowout win over the Nittany Lions the last time these two met in Ann Arbor. In order for PSU to get back on track, it will have to put together a full 60-minute effort. The Nittany Lions have had difficulties in the third period, being out-scored 8-2 in the final 20 minutes of the last six games. An inability to close out games nearing the end of the season could spoil an otherwise impressive season for PSU, as it has been the surprise team of 2014-15.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Casey Bailey is the top-producing forward on the top-producing line in the B1G with 21 goals and 37 points. Bailey, Taylor Holstrom and David Goodwin generated four of PSU’s six goals last weekend and combine for 41 goals and 99 points this season. Bailey leads the Nittany Lions in power-play goals (4) and power-play points (9) with a plus-14 rating and averages a staggering 5.8 shots per game. Bailey had a goal and assisted on the game-winner in PSU’s 3-2 victory over the Wolverines on Nov. 21, and will have to come up big again this weekend if the Nittany Lions are going to make a move in the standings.
THIS WEEKEND: vs. No. 16 Michigan, Mar. 6-7.
WISCONSIN (2-12-2, 4-22-4)
OVERVIEW: After suffering a series sweep to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor last week, the Badgers will return to the state of Michigan to battle the Spartans in East Lansing this week. It will be the second time in three weeks that UW and MSU will square off as the season series is split at a game apiece. Joel Rumpel stopped 32-of-33 shots to help the Badgers upset the Spartans 2-1 on Feb. 20, and could take another game away from MSU with a similar performance this week. A low-scoring game will at least give UW a chance and with MSU averaging just 2.37 goals per game, the Badgers won’t be overwhelmed by offense like they were last week. With winnable games against MSU this week and OSU next week, the Badgers have an opportunity to generate momentum heading into the B1G tournament.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The team’s leading defenseman, Kevin Schulze has four goals and 11 points this season. Schulze has 34 career points, which ranks third among current Badgers and has nine points in conference-play. The junior has anchored a young defense skating on the top pair and leads the B1G with 80 blocked shots. From Jan. 23 to Feb. 20, Schulze totaled two goals and eight points in a nine-game span and had the game-winning goal in UW’s 2-1 win two weeks ago. In what should be a defensive battle, Schulze will be expected to log a lot of minutes as the Badgers go on the road to close out the season series with the Spartans.
THIS WEEKEND: at Michigan State, Mar. 6-7.
The Big Ten will descend on Joe Louis Arena for the first time from March 19-21 as the conference’s championship tournament will be staged in Detroit with all five games set to air live on the Big Ten Network. All-session ticket packages, which include one ticket to all five games of the tournament, start at $45, and are now on sale at the JLA box office (313-471-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at OlympiaEntertainment.com.
The top two seeds entering the tournament receive byes through the opening-round games, which will take place March 19 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. The semifinals are scheduled for March 20 at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., with the championship game set to follow on March 21 at 8 p.m.