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Bobcats return to ranks as Team USA alums

World University Games help Bobcats players see hockey in a new way.

In the early weeks of February, Granada, Spain, averaged temperatures in the 60s and 70s.

Forward Michael Harris said he was able to wear shorts and a T-shirt every day. His Bobcat linemate, Joey Breslin, simply described the weather as amazing.

“I miss it already,” Breslin said with a laugh. “It was like 70 degrees over there and we come back here and it’s snowing.”

The Bobcats returned to Athens last week to sub-zero temperatures, and though Spain could be a great place to go to escape the winter, the Bobcats who travelled weren’t just getting away for an early spring break.

Breslin and Harris, along with defenseman Tyler Benson and coach Sean Hogan, travelled to Spain earlier this month for just over two weeks to play for Team USA at the World University Games. The experiences they had internationally are ones they’ll likely never forget.

“You’re treated like a professional when you’re over there,” said Breslin, who noted that that was his favorite part of the experience.

He enjoyed seeing thousands of fans at the games and being taken care of with such perks as free food.

“All you had to do was show up and play,” Breslin said.

Breslin did more than just show up in his six games donning the USA sweater. The sophomore sniper led the team in goals (3) and tied for the lead in points (8).

One thing Harris said he will remember is the scene that led up to the opening faceoff on Feb. 11 against archrival Canada. With 4,400 fans in attendance at the Granada Sport Palace, a loud “U-S-A” chant began to ring out.

“A ‘U-S-A' chant in a USA-Canada game — it doesn’t get much better than that,” Harris said. “Lining up for that (opening faceoff) hearing ‘U-S-A’ was like right out of a movie.”

The Americans lost that game 4-0 against the eventual bronze medalists, but finished the tournament with an overall record of 3-2-1. Their best win came against Kazakhstan, the eventual silver medalist.

“We did OK,” Hogan said. “I thought we were good enough to medal and we ended up finishing seventh.”

Hogan was an assistant coach on the Team USA staff for the second-straight year. He coached at Arizona last season and earned an assistant coaching spot for the World University Games in Italy. Hogan said he felt more prepared this time around and he’s hopeful to be on the coaching staff again in two years when the tournament moves to Kazakhstan.

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This year’s 11-team tournament featured five European teams, four Asian teams and two North American teams. With a variety of world regions represented, the Ohio representatives saw playing styles they weren't accustomed to.

“The Russians were the most skilled team for sure. Highly skilled, ultra fast, really, really good,” Hogan said. “The Canadians were very physical.”

Hogan also mentioned the strange European-style offensive breakouts deployed by the Czechs and Slovaks, in which all skaters began on one side of the ice and cut to the middle.

Despite a finish outside of the podium, Team USA and its Ohio members were granted a unique experience to play against some of the best university-aged players from around the world.

Harris, who was named one of the team’s assistant captains, said the tournament gave him a greater respect for the game of hockey.

“The speed of the game was quicker, everything just happened so much faster,” he said. “I’m just happy to have been able to experience that. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”


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