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Tyler Benson attempts a shot against Robert Morris on Friday. Ohio lost 4-1. 

Graduating trio leaves hole in Ohio defense

Bobcats lose leadership of three key defensemen because of graduation.

For any collegiate team, the end to a season brings about inevitable roster changes based on exiting seniors and incoming freshmen.

For Ohio, a team which boasted an American Collegiate Hockey League-best 1.71 goals allowed per game, no off-season adjustments will be as important as filling the hole left behind by three graduating defensemen.

Bobcat blue-liners Mike Kretz, Paul Sergi and Tyler Benson have officially completed their careers at Ohio and, according to coach Sean Hogan, will be hard to replace moving forward for multiple reasons.

“It’ll be hard to replace those guys, not only on the ice, but their leadership is phenomenal,” Hogan said.

The senior defensive trio accounted for close to sixty percent of Ohio’s regular season points by defensemen, but its presence in the locker room is what Hogan believes will be the hardest to replace.

Five skaters will be returning on the back end for the Bobcats: juniors Tyler Pecka and Graham Harwood, sophomores Reilly Moore and Mike LaFrenier, and freshman Jake Faiella.

Moore, who missed the second half of the season with academic ineligibility, is expected in the lineup as a junior next season while Harwood is a player who Hogan thinks has a lot of upside.

In terms of stepping up and making the biggest impact next season, however, Pecka, LaFrenier and Faiella are the most poised to take on more significant roles.

“(LaFrenier) has a great shot, good vision on the ice and can play at a high level,” said sophomore goalie Aaron Alkema. “I think Faiella will have a lot more expanded role next year … he’s gonna be a little more of an all-around guy for us.”

For Pecka, a chance to become one of next year’s captains is within reach. Ohio loses its captain, Kretz, as well as both assistant captains in Sergi and senior forward Nathan De La Torre.

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“Pecka’s going to be a senior next year and we expect him to be a leader,” Hogan said. “And I think he could be a real good force for us.”

The 5-foot-10 Chicago native was a top-four defenseman on this year’s team and finished second in team scoring for defensemen with 19 points in 38 games.

Pecka is unsure of who next year’s captains will be, but is prepared to take on additional responsibilities as a senior whether or not he is selected.

“I’m still gonna help the younger kids out, help the new guys coming in and try to still be a leader and help everybody get going for the season,” he said.

Monday, the Bobcats will gather for a team meeting to select next year’s captains. It is a players-only vote.

Choosing new leadership will be the first step to filling the void left behind by Ohio’s graduating defensemen and is an area that Hogan isn’t too concerned about.

“We’ll let the players vote because, in my mind, all of them are good leaders and they understand the importance of that role,” Hogan said.


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