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Ohio forward Matthew Hartman (#16) attempts to steal the puck from Oklahoma defence Patrick Grace (#8) during the Ohio vs. Oklahoma game on Feb. 6, 2015. (FILE)

Hockey: Ohio looks toward a title run in second season with Hogan

The 'Cats return may key pieces of last year's squad.

After falling in overtime to Minot State in this past year’s American Collegiate Hockey Association quarterfinals, Ohio hockey is ready to make the next step under second-year coach Sean Hogan.

With high expectations already in place for 2015, the Bobcats will firstly look to improve upon its 27-7-6 record from this past season.

“The expectations at Ohio University hockey are always really high,” Hogan said. “We always feel we can compete at the highest level. Every year has the chance to be pretty special.”

With expectations high, Ohio aims to bring home its first national championship since 2004.

The road to Ohio’s next title, however, won’t be easy.

The schedule features a road trip to Arizona to take on Arizona and Arizona State.

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The trip will be a familiar one for Hogan, as he was the head coach of Arizona for three seasons prior to coming to Athens.

“It’s gonna be a little weird,” Hogan said of coming back to his previous school. “Being on the visiting team bench and going into the visiting team locker room for the first time — it’s gonna be a little strange.”

With the cross-country travel, Hogan is looking forward to the test Arizona State will provide to his squad and it’s depth.

“Arizona State is a NCAA, Division 1 program, so it’ll be a good opportunity for our team to compete at the highest level collegiately,” Hogan said.

While Ohio may not have a new leader from its incoming class yet, it does have a new captain on the ice.

New captain, senior forward Michael Harris, figures to be a fixture on this year’s club, as he was a part of the Bobcats first line this past season. That line, also featuring juniors Joey Breslin and Patrick Spellacy, scored 100 combined points in 100 combined games this past season.

Breslin and Spellacy also finished second and third in goals scored last season, respectively.

“It provides a lot of continuity in our scoring,” Hogan said of the trio. “Those three hockey players are great hockey players, they had great seasons last year, and they have an opportunity to be really good this year.”

Along with the pressures of being the team’s top goal scorer, Harris is considered a “strong leader” on and off the ice.

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“We let the players vote for captain, and the good thing about these captains, was it was basically unanimous across the board,” Hogan said. “We definitely have a strong group of seniors and a strong group of leaders to help us day in and day out.”

After graduating half of its defense last season, the Bobcats will look for new faces to fill those roles — something Hogan hopes can happen seamlessly.

“The guys that we lost were a big part of what we did,” Hogan said. “The good thing is, is that we have players that are capable of stepping in and filling those roles. We should be pretty solid on the blue line.”

Helping out on the defensive side of the ice is the return of both goalies, junior Aaron Alkema and junior Ryan Heltion. The two goalies both sported goals against averages of below two per game, with Heltion breaking the single-season record at Ohio for his 1.50 G.A.A.

Although it figures to be an open competition for the spot, Hogan didn’t rule out giving someone the number-one spot outright until they earn it.

“On paper right now, they’re both gonna get an equal opportunity, and we’ll see who runs away with it. We had great team defense as a whole last year, and they’ll both get an opportunity to be the number one guy.”

With the season inching closer, Hogan knows his team will report hungry for their first championship in over a decade.

“I learned how important it is to have a group that wants to be the best team in the nation. Last year, we had that for sure. We didn’t have any guys that were about themselves."


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