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Drew Crandall controls the puck at Bird Arena on Friday night. Ohio beat John Carroll 5-0. 

Hockey: ’Cats looks to keep tough against Syracuse

No. 10 Bobcats host unranked Orange in week five matchup and their return to Bird Arena

Three road games in a row isn’t much, but the last two weeks have seemed like an eternity for Ohio hockey fans.

Those fans will be ready to provide a welcome back to their team when the Bobcats (6-1-1) face off against Syracuse on Friday at home. Ohio is currently undefeated at Bird Arena this year.

Ohio will enter this weekend as the 10th-ranked team in the country, according to last Friday’s American Collegiate Hockey Association poll. It is coming off a weekend in which it dominated a 3-0 game against No. 2 Robert Morris, before falling to the Eagles in a shootout on the following night.

“We had great habits last week,” coach Sean Hogan said. “All the little things we did in practice, all the chips, making sure we have good body position, crisp breakouts; those are the things that were the difference in the game. If you constantly work on breakouts, the other team can’t establish pressure on the offensive end.”

Syracuse (6-2-0) is coming off a weekend sweep of Canisius in which it scored six goals in both contests. The Orange has already made one road trip against a top 10 team this season, a series against No. 4 Stony Brook that resulted in their only two losses of the season.

The Bobcats are prepared for Syracuse to provide a tough challenge this weekend.

“Over the course of the last three or four years, there’s been marked improvement in that program,” Hogan said. “They have a great head coach, he’s a guy who’s really turned that program around and got them to the national tournament last year. They’re going to be hard to play against, I expect them to be the second-best team we’ve played so far this year.”

Ohio enters the weekend with forward Joe Breslin at the top of the scoring ranks, with 10 points and five goals. Forward Liam Geither, who scored two goals against Robert Morris, follows with nine points, while defenseman Paul Sergi has eight points.

For players, it seems the early-season cobwebs have been shaken off heading into the fifth week of action and inches closer to mid-season form.

“I think it took us playing Robert Morris to see that we’re done with (the early-season adjustments),” junior forward Michael Harris said. “It proved to not only us but everyone else in the nation that we’ll be one of the toughest teams to play in the country, just like every other year.”

Hampering the Bobcats this weekend will be a series of injuries that arose a week ago. Forwards Riley Moore and Logan Pfeffer are not likely to be active this weekend, while the team hopes to get forward Patrick Spellacy back on the ice on Saturday.

“Everybody’s going to have to do their part for the team,” Harris said. “That’s why they’re here. Some guys get injured, other guys need to step in and fill those roles.”

aw987712@ohio.edu

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