When Tyler Harkins and Cody Black step on the ice, they're almost always the smallest players between the two teams.

But for the pair of forwards, size is just a number that has never spoken for their production, which, for each player, comes from two different styles of play.

Harkins, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, excels in stick-handling abilities, passing and shooting. Black, a 5-foot-7 junior, brings a physical presence that works well defensively and can create offensive opportunities.

"Cody is a super responsible player defensively," coach Sean Hogan said. "(He's) super responsible in faceoff situations. Harks is offensive-minded, has a lot of high skill and has a chance to create a lot of offensive opportunities. They're kind of two different players, but they both make an impact."

Harkins' impact can easily be found among Ohio's statistical leaders — he's second on the team in points (22), goals (10) and assists (12) — and his slick stick-handling abilities and nimble passing talents easily compensate for his size.

The Rocky River native's puck-handling abilities are on full display when he warms up before a game. During the pregame tuneup, Harkins constantly dishes saucer passes, where the puck is horizontally parallel to the ice, to opponents during drills and typically practices with defenseman Jake Houston on the side with other puck-handling drills.

Harkins' talents grew after his freshman year of high school, and he always looks to improve his quickness in his offseason workouts.

"It comes to just putting in the extra effort in the summer, knowing that my game isn't my size," he said. "There's guys at 6-feet (tall) that have better shots, you know, it's harder for guys to take the puck away because of their reach. I think when you're smaller, you got to be fast, you got to be quick and you got to work on your vision."

Black's talents, however, don't always show up in the form of points. While the Wexford, Pennsylvania, native is also quick, he channels his speed toward physical play. 

Black's size is a non-factor when he looks to check an opponent. Since joining the level of hockey where checking is legal, Black has moved past the mental hurdles that could arise when squaring up a large opponent.

"It definitely is all in your head," Black said. "As far as going in to hit somebody, I kind of cleared that thought in my mind. Like, if I fall, I fall and I get right back up. That's not a problem at all."

Rather than slowing down as other players do to perhaps ensure a full-body hit, Black speeds up. It gives him the additional force needed to deliver an impactful check, and it sometimes catches Black's target off guard.

Black mimics his physical style from NHL player Chris Kunitz, likely because of hits like this and especially this.

"Whenever I speed up to hit a guy, it's not expected with my lower center of gravity. I'm able to bring a little more force into hitting a guy," Black said. "That slowing down gives them time to check you back, whereas you speed up and you close that gap."

Harkins and Black's quickness also enables them to avoid being on the more painful end of such hits.

To opponents, their height makes them easy targets, but Harkins and Black each echoed similar abilities that are necessary in avoiding big blows from players looking to make a highlight-worthy hit.

"You got to be fast," Harkins said. "I'm 155 pounds soaking wet, so I'm not a big frame at all. It's not so much being afraid to get hit; it's just setting yourself up in a position where you're not going to take yourself out of the play."

For Black, the additional step or two he can get from his quickness is all the difference between a huge hit and a mishit.

"Even when I see a guy coming at me, my legs are strong enough where I'm able to take that one or two strides, that quick acceleration to get out of the way," he said. "When a bigger guy is coming at you and he's ready to hit you, you got to be ready for it."

It's not often Ohio will come across an opponent with a player the size of Harkins or Black, but the duo are used to being the smallest guys on the ice. They've embraced it, and now there's "nothing wrong with it," Black said.

"Thankfully, Cody's like an inch or two shorter than me," Harkins joked.

@anthonyp_2

ap012215@ohio.edu

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