It's all starting to become reality for seniors Jake Faiella, Mike Palasics and Drew Crandall.

The trio's final days in the Bird Arena, where they've all spent countless hours, are numbered. They will play their final regular series at Bird Arena on Friday and Saturday against Illinois. 

It won't be their last time playing at Bird Arena — the Bobcats have four weeks of practice left at the 60-year-old rink, which will also host Ohio at least once in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League's postseason tournament from Feb. 23-25.

But when the seniors get their individual introductions onto the ice in a dimmed and loud Bird Arena as part of senior night on Saturday, they'll realize how close they are to the final time they'll put on an Ohio jersey at Bird Arena.

"I don't know how many times we've looked at each other after practice or before we go out and do something and we're like, 'man, only a couple more weeks,' " Faiella said. 

The moment is one that the seniors felt as if would never happen. Faiella, a defenseman, still remembers a moment he had with former Ohio defenseman Tyler Benson in Faiella's freshman season.

Benson, a senior, tapped Faiella on the back during a game.

"Hey, it goes by quick," Benson told him.

But Faiella wasn't concerned about it. He still had three years and plenty of hockey ahead of him.

"Now I'm looking back like, 'whoa,' " Faiella said.

Over the past month, the seniors have realized more than ever how big of a role Ohio hockey has had in their four years in Athens. 

Most of those moments have come in the pregame ceremonies. Palasics' line started in last Friday's game against Oakland, and when the forward stood on Ohio's blue line for the national anthem, the moment hit.

"I was like, 'damn,'" he said. "Not much of it is left, so I'm just trying to enjoy it while it lasts."

For Crandall, the moment hit during warmups in the Bobcats' alumni weekend series against Pitt. An alumni band was blaring music in the corner of Bird Arena, and Crandall took a pause from his warm-up routine to look around at the already-crowded rink. 

"It was just a really cool environment and experience," Crandall said. "I just took a moment to realize how much I might miss it. It goes quick."

Injuries

  • Kyle Craddick (lower-body injury) is not expected to play in the series. Hogan is hopeful Craddick can play in Ohio's last regular season series on the road at Iowa State but believes the forward will be back in time for the postseason. Craddick hasn't played since Dec. 1.
  • Jake Houston (upper-body injury) is questionable to play in the series. The defenseman hasn't played since Jan. 27.
  • Gianni Evangelisti (upper-body injury) is expected to play in the series. The forward was wearing a red non-contact jersey in Tuesday's practice.

Puck-drop is scheduled for Friday and Saturday night in Bird Arena at 7:30 p.m.

@anthonyp_2

ap012215@ohio.edu

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