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Ohio University forward, Patrick Spellacy, dribbles the puck down the ice last season in the game against Robert Morris University. 

Ohio looking toward bright future following unlucky 2014-15 season

Coming off one of its better seasons in recent memory, Ohio is prepared for another run next year.

Going into winter break, Ohio looked unstoppable.

It was perfect at home and had beaten everyone in its conference, including a sweep of Lindenwood at Bird Arena. Everything seemed to be in place for a healthy roster to continue its forward strides and pick up enough big-game experience to be completely battle tested for the league and national tournaments.

But no team can stay hot forever, and the Bobcats were no strangers to that. Three of their best players and their head coach were selected to represent Team USA in Europe at the World University Games, and they missed arguably the toughest part of the schedule.

When they returned, their top defenseman was out with a wrist injury, and the team had lost a significant amount of the momentum it had built over the course of the season, losing five of its last six games and frantically trying to refit the puzzle pieces entering the Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament.

As much adversity as the team saw late in the season, the Bobcats still found plenty to be happy about. By the time all was said and done, Ohio had its first regular season Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament title since 2009, a national quarterfinal appearance and the comfort of knowing its entire top line of forwards would be right back with the team next season.

“It’s really difficult to be that good for a long period of time in his league,” said coach Sean Hogan. “I’m disappointed with the results, but definitely not with the effort we displayed in the national tournament. I think we’re building a lot of momentum in this program, and I think we certainly have a bright future.”

Ohio (26-7-5) made its name with its defense in the 2014-15 season, allowing the second fewest goals out of anybody in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. This was helped by a crop of three bright senior defensemen, including the team captain, Mike Kretz, Paul Sergi and Team USA-er Tyler Benson.

While the crop of defenders was strong, the trio of goaltenders was arguably the best in the country. Ryan Heltion’s final goals against average narrowly missed setting a team record, and he and fellow goalie Aaron Alkema finished third and sixth respectively in the American Collegiate Hockey Association in the final GAA standings.

“I was just going out looking to build on the things I’d done before,” Heltion said. “I think this season I found a little bit more of a niche on this team and was able to be a bigger contributor. I also tried to think more of the mental aspect of the game, and I think that made me a lot calmer in the net.”

Offensively, Ohio’s depth shined all season, led by sophomore Joe Breslin and junior Michael Harris, who each finished the season with 36 points. Longtime best friends sophomore Patrick Spellacy and junior Liam Geither finished with 28 and 26 points, respectively. Seniors Tom Whetsel (25) and Nathan De La Torre (23) were close behind, as well.

“Performance-wise, I think we did everything we expected to do,” Harris said. “We lost some games we dominated, and some others we lost were games where pucks just didn’t go our way.”

Although the team’s top four scorers will return in 2015-16 — with two of them set to return for another year after that — fans of the Bobcats should be just as excited to see a familiar face on the coaching bench next year. After the team has cycled through three coaches in three seasons, Hogan did not mince words about whether he’d be a Bobcat in the fall.

“I plan on being back,” Hogan said. “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be. I want to be here, and I’m excited about the guys we have coming back. And I love Bird Arena and Ohio University, so I’ll be here.”

aw987712@ohio.edu

@_tonywolfe_

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