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Ohio defender Paul Sergi looks for an open teammate to pass to in the Bobcat's game against Lindenwood at Bird Arena on Friday. 

Ohio takes business-like approach into national tournament

No. 6 Bobcats’ strong schedule prepares them for national stage.

Only 198 miles separate Athens and Strongsville, but the 38 games Ohio played over 23 weeks to get there are what made the journey such a long and trying one.

The Bobcats' quest for an American Collegiate Hockey Association national championship begins Saturday as No. 6 Ohio is set to take on No. 11 Liberty (25-10-5) at OBM Arena. Ohio went on the road and swept Liberty back in January.

As a team that lost five of its last six regular season games and was unable to win the Central States Hockey League playoff title, Ohio (26-7-5) plans on doing everything it can to be ready for the single-elimination tournament — starting with practice methods.

While Ohio University students broke for spring break, the Bobcats remained on campus and kept a consistent practice schedule.

Coach Sean Hogan organized 10 a.m. practices each day of the week in preparation for the 10 a.m. games Ohio would play in its first two rounds if it were to make it that far.

Another key component of practice was game film because some of the Bobcats’ potential opponents are teams they haven’t faced all season. No. 3 Minot State (28-9-1), for example, is the team Ohio would most likely run into in the second round of the tournament.

However, for the amount of teams in the national tournament that Ohio hasn’t faced this season, there are plenty of familiar foes as well.

The 20-team tournament features eight teams that Ohio played at least twice this season, including five schools ranked in the top ten: No. 10 Iowa State, No. 9 Lindenwood, No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 4 Robert Morris (Ill.). The Bobcats posted a total record of 15-6-5 this season against this year’s tournament contenders.

Ohio’s division, the CSCHL, qualified all five of its teams to nationals and was the only ACHA division to do so.

“We played a tough schedule all year long,” said junior Derek Rahme, who believes the Bobcats will be able to get ready for any team they are faced with.

One thing Ohio won’t do in preparation for its final stretch of the season is get strange haircuts as a team.

Last year’s team gathered together to get bowl cuts, but Rahme said this year’s team plans on going in a different direction.

“We kind of looked goofy,” he said. “I think it fit the personality of our team, but I think we’re gonna go straight business this year.”

Rahme, who recently switched to become a defenseman, said the team felt that it had some bad voodoo with the bowl cuts and prefers to remain au naturel.

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Bad haircuts or not, Ohio’s national tournament run may require some good fortune.

Regular season records and division titles need not apply, because every game in the national tournament has the potential to be the team’s last of the year

“It’s gonna be tough games,” Rahme said. “It’s win or go home, so both sides understand that. It really doesn’t matter what happened earlier in the year.”

@JordanHorrobin

jh950614@ohio.edu

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