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Andrew Gillis

Hockey Column: Ohio has all the weapons needed to make a title run

The best team on campus, Ohio hockey, is well equipped to become champions.

There seems to be two distinct questions that surround Ohio hockey that I’ve encountered when talking about the team with others. 

The first question almost always is, “Why isn’t the team NCAA DI?”

That answer lies somewhere between “it’s complicated” and “tens of millions of dollars.”

But the second question is a rather interesting one.

“How good is the team, exactly?”

At first glance, the answer is fairly obvious. The Bobcats are ranked No. 7 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association national poll, and are 25-7-1 on the season. Simply put, they’re good.

But diving deeper, the Bobcats have all the assets necessary to run the table for a national tournament.

Yes, the Bobcats are national championship-good.

In discussing the team's strengths this season, I’d be wrong to not start at the top of the Bobcats' lineup.

Ohio’s top line, consisting of juniors Patrick Spellacy and Joey Breslin and senior Michael Harris, are averaging over a point per game. Breslin leading the team with 37 points in 30 games played.

The second line, a revelation in the past few weekend series, has performed almost as well as the first line. Matt Hartman, Matt Rudin and Liam Geither are fourth, fifth and sixth in points, respectively. Their production is only behind the three top liners.

The first two lines have combined for 77 of Ohio’s 149 goals, good for just over half of the total. Not only does that show the Bobcats can score, sometimes at will, but it’s not a top heavy attack like some would assume.

Throw that in with a third and fourth line that is prone to score often, as well as shut down opposing teams' top lines, the Bobcats have a forward group that is deep and well balanced.

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Ohio can not only put the puck in the net just as well as any team, it can also prevent it as well.

The defense for the Bobcats is balance, with a good mix of physicality and skill.

The Bobcats defense is both big, with Alex Vazquez and Grant Hazel listed at 6 feet 2 inches tall, and Jake Faiella at 6 feet 1 inch, and mixed with skill. Defenders Tyler Pecka, Reilly Moore and Mike LaFrenier sit in the top 10 in points for the team. LaFrenier is fourth on the team in goals this season, scoring 10 so far.

If all else fails, they have a pretty sturdy fall back option between the pipes.

The Bobcats have one of the best in net in the ACHA. Junior goalie Aaron Alkema, 16-4 on the season, is ranked fourth in wins in the league. He's also near the top of the list when factoring in goalies who play more than 10 games.

Sporting a save percentage of .907, Alkema has proven that he can put the team on his back if need be.

So with all that laid out, there still leaves the problem of randomness.

Coach*Sean Hogan has said throughout the season that the national tournament is such a "crapshoot" due to its single elimination style.

And, well, he’s right.

Just one bad night, one bad bounce, or one smite, and the Bobcats will return to Athens without a ring.

With all that said, though, the Bobcats have all the pieces to make a deep run at the national tournament in just over a month’s time.

The Bobcats will be growing healthier over the next few weeks, so the next question fans should ask is “Why not us?”


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