Tyler Harkins and Matt Rudin looked at each other with matching smiles.

The two were told that they were about to be interviewed at the same time for a story on their nearly decade-long friendship, which started when they were 10-year-old peewee players for the Cleveland Barons youth hockey club.

"We finish each other's..." Harkins said before pausing.

"Sandwiches," they said together as a reference to a scene in Arrested Development.

The two said the line in-sync, as though they've said it together before and that they actually do finish each other’s sentences.

Harkins, a sophomore, and Rudin, a junior, have gotten to know each other well since their pre-teen days with the Barons. At the peewee and bantam stages of hockey, they played on the same line and helped each other develop the on-ice skills that carried them on paths that would intersect yet again in Athens.

During Rudin's freshman year at Ohio, Harkins frequently texted him questions about what the campus was like and whether it'd be a fit for Harkins to play hockey and be a student. Rudin encouraged Harkins to continue pursuing Ohio, and he put in a good word to coach Sean Hogan about his former teammate.

After Harkins visited the campus and picked Ohio, the reunion with Rudin was complete.

On the ice, the two are still on the same line with the Bobcats, but that's perhaps the only true similarity they share at Ohio compared to their days with Cleveland.

Harkins described himself as a "nerdy kid" whose job with the Barons was to find ways to keep the puck on Rudin's stick. Rudin, who was 5-foot-9 and sported some much longer red hair that Harkins called "a beauty," was frequently the tallest kid on the ice and the team's most talented player.

Now, Harkins is no longer the aforementioned nerd, Rudin's long hair is gone, and at 5-foot-11, Rudin is never the tallest kid on the ice.

"But my skills are still here, though," Rudin said.

His skills include a strong physical presence and a knack for scoring goals in front of the net, which complements Harkins' precise passing abilities.

Unlike their days with the Barons, however, the scoring sequence that often finished with Rudin is now interchangeable. Harkins and Rudin are second and third in Ohio's point leaders, respectively. Harkins is also tied for first on the team in goals (14), and Rudin is second (12).

"(Rudin) works hard in the corners, and we're just an all-around package," Harkins said. "He's got the intangible of like, he's a hard-worker and he'll take the hit. He'll battle in the corner, and that makes it easier for me because I know he's going to win that battle, and he's going to be able to find me as well."

Harkins and Rudin's successes have been boosted by their keen knowledge of where each other's position is on the ice at nearly all times. It's an instinct that they share because of their years of developed chemistry, which they've dubbed the "Cleveland Connection."

The bond also extends to the bench. When the the two players finish a low-quality shift, they're not afraid to pin blame on each other or share their thoughts on why the play broke down because the other will usually agree.

"We're comfortable saying, 'Oh you should've done this, you should've done that,' or take the blame on something," Harkins said. "The fact that we can talk to each other about hockey and no one's going to get upset with each other when we say it makes it easier."

It's hard to find a duo stronger than Harkins and Rudin on Ohio, and the two showed no hesitation to describe themselves as the greatest battery on the Bobcats.

"By—" Harkins said before he stopped, laughed and allowed Rudin to finish the sentence.

"By far, yes. Hands down," Rudin said.



Correction: A previous version of the photo caption misspelled Tyler Harkins name. The photo caption has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.

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