Gabe Lampron was all smiles as he exited the ice after a 4-1 win over Davenport on Nov. 4.
Fans at Bird Arena couldn't see it, but Lampron, who scored a goal in each of Ohio's wins that weekend, sported an invisible cape passed on to him by forward Matt Rudin, who had spent his fifth-straight game off the ice and was nursing a broken clavicle injury.
Before his injury, Rudin, who had six points in 10 games and played on Ohio's top power-play line, wore imaginary capes as an inside joke between him and Lampron, who are both juniors. It's a small ritual that dates back to their freshman years when Rudin said "I'm just wearing my cape" after clutch third-period performances.
Before a game, Lampron always asked Rudin what cape he was wearing. After suffering his injury, Rudin told Lampron that the capes were his.
"It's kind of like a Superman kind of deal with the cape," Rudin said. "You just go as hard as you can, basically. As the years went on, (Lampron) started to get more and more into the capes and stuff. ... So when I was injured, I told him that he'd have to take over the capes and stuff for the games."
Since Rudin's injury, as well as a rash of other injuries that have kept Ohio's roster thin, Lampron has kept the Bobcats afloat. Ohio has gone 6-1-1 since Oct. 20 and has been boosted by Lampron's five goals and three assists in that span.
Lampron, a native of LaGrange, had tallied 15 combined points in 38 total games his first two seasons with Ohio. He's tied for third on the team with 13 points and seven goals in 15 games this season.
Needless to say, Lampron has shed his previous role as a bottom-six forward. When the injury bug hit Ohio during the Stony Brook series and forced the Bobcats to routinely play a measly 10 forwards a game, Lampron saw his opportunity to prove himself.
"That just meant more ice time," Lampron said. "So I just had to step up and do everything I could just to show coach (Sean Hogan) that we were going to be OK. Everyone's replaceable."
Rudin's injury was arguably the toughest to replace. He was originally expected to be out until after winter break, Hogan said, and he was a vital piece of the top line from a then-struggling power play. Rudin was also a key playmaker along the boards and excelled in winning puck battles.
With minimal power-play experience in the past, Lampron was among the rotation of players who needed to fill in on the power play. The Bobcats' man advantage was struggling at a 9 percent conversion rate before it exploded for seven goals, two from an assist from Lampron, in the sweep of Davenport.
Hogan credited Lampron's success to assuming the role of a grind-it-out player, and he won't forget about Lampron's achievements in his lineup decisions when players return from injury.
"He's taken advantage of his opportunities," Hogan said. "It's not just points, but he's doing the little things of winning puck battles. He's doing a great job in the D-zone, and those things can build confidence because he's preparing the right way. So now he has confidence, and confidence leads to points and then points leads to wins. Simple formula."
Rudin is expected to return to the lineup this weekend against Lindenwood, Hogan said, but Lampron has earned himself the same amount of playing time regardless of how many forwards Ohio has.
"As long as he continues to do what he's doing, I can't imagine it'll change much," Hogan said on Lampron's role moving forward. "He's been doing great for us."
With Rudin's return, there's only one question between him and Lampron — who will wear the cape?
Previously, it was just Rudin who wore the "magical, make-believe" cape. The last month, however, has changed who is worthy of the honor.
"He's obviously been playing pretty well so far," Rudin said on Lampron. "It's funny how we always go back and forth with the capes and stuff.
"Before every game, since I haven't been playing, I would tie it on for him and I would drape it over his back. Then, when I'm back in the lineup, he'll probably put it on me again, but then I'll probably put on the cape on for him as well."