Its fans, supporters and the team itself know the logistics — Ohio is a young team.
Compared to a year ago, a team led by 10 seniors, this year’s squad has just three. A combined 16 freshmen and sophomores will don the green and white, officially, for the first time this weekend as No. 2-ranked Ohio hosts John Carroll on Friday and Saturday night at Bird Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. both nights.
There is an upside to the youth, however.
“We’re young grade wise, but our ‘young’ guys have two-three years of worth of junior hockey experience,” senior defenseman Jake Faiella said.
That experience was evident last weekend during the Bobcats annual Green and White game that resulted in a 1-1 tie. Freshman Zach Frank scored for Team White, and sophomore Tyler Harkins scored for Team Green.
As for the goalies in net last Friday, returning starter and sophomore faced 19 shots on goal. Freshmen Mason Kostner and Jackson Chilberg faced a combined 19 shots on goal. Kostner was on the losing end of the deal and had a goal scored on him.
While the youth shined in the intra-squad scrimmage, this isn’t practice – it’s game week.
For the last six seasons, Ohio has started its season off against John Carroll and in those six seasons, the Bobcats are 9-0-1. A year ago, the Bobcats swept the Blue Streaks by a combined 20-0 due in part to the standout play of then-senior Joe Breslin. Despite Ohio dominating the six-year series, the team says it's still anyone’s game.
“Any team in our league can win on any night,” Faiella said.
For Ohio to see the same success it saw last year in the season opener, it’s going to have to come down to playing the team's way.
“We have to use our speed and get pucks behind the defense,” coach Sean Hogan said.
A team that includes 17 forwards out of a 25-man roster, the Bobcats can present hectic lines and switches for the Blue Streaks to manage throughout the weekend.
“We can out-skate them,” Hogan said. “We aren’t looking for one-on-one matchups, but are looking to create odd-man rushes.”
If the Green and White game was an indicator of how Ohio’s odd-man rushes will go this year, Hogan has nothing to be worried about just yet. Both sides last Friday night saw many two-on-one or three-on-two rushes, only no pucks found the back of the net.
Experience runs deep for Ohio and while on the roster it indicates many freshmen and sophomores, they’ve brought the experience with them.
“They all bring something to the table, and they’ll all play this year,” Hogan said.
While they’ll all play this year, this weekend is one the returning members of last year’s team have been waiting for.
The quest to return to the American Collegiate Hockey Association championship game begins this weekend, and for those who have tasted the sour loss from a year ago, redemption begins, and the road starts when the puck drops Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Bird Arena.