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Ohio's Grant Hazel and Derek Rahme move the puck away from Robert Morris' Stan Sojka during a game at Bird Arena on Nov. 20. 

Hockey: No. 7 Ohio regains defensive depth for series against No. 16 Liberty

Ohio will be gunning for a season sweep of Liberty, a team it beat twice on the road in late October.

Ohio defenseman Jake Faiella was not in street clothes during team practice this past week. He and his two healthy shoulders were in a black, full-contact jersey. 

“We did a great job of rehabbing me back and right now I’m back into lifting,” Faiella said. “Getting stronger every day.” 

Faiella, who hadn’t played since Nov. 20 before returning last weekend against Lindenwood, is not just personally getting stronger. He’s bolstering a back end that can push the Bobcats up the rankings with one month left in the regular season. 

No. 7 ranked Ohio (21-4-1) begins its surge through the final month by hosting No. 16 Liberty (10-11-1) Friday and Saturday night at Bird Arena. 

Regaining chemistry 

Though he’s just a sophomore, Faiella has risen this season to one of the Bobcats' top four defenseman. His lockdown defensive skillset, along with simply being available for the lineup, makes the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Faiella a valued asset.

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“I may chip in here and there for a goal or two, but it’s just going to help us getting the lines back together,” Faiella said. “The chemistry was great before I was injured and now that I’m getting back to it, it’ll be even better.” 

Though Ohio’s defensive pairings sometimes change a bit from night to night, previous lineups this season suggest that Faiella will skate with junior Mike LaFrenier. 

LaFrenier, like Faiella who is seeing much more ice time this season, leads the Bobcat defensemen in scoring with nine goals and 20 points. 

A night in the '90s 

Although Britney Spears’ earliest album and Nirvana’s greatest hits will be playing at Bird Arena on Friday night, don’t expect Ohio coach Sean Hogan to trade in his suit jacket for a Saved By the Bell Zack Morris sweater. 

“When I got here, that’s one of the things we implemented is trying to do promotional nights and see how they go,” Hogan said. 

Faiella is looking forward to the evening’s set list, but neither he nor Hogan know what to expect fans to be wearing. 

“I guess it would be like grunge, right?” Hogan said. “I went to high school in the '90s and college in the '90s. I’m pretty sure that’s how it was.” 

Whether Bird Arena sees an influx of wallet chains and combat boots this weekend, Ohio will be gunning for a season sweep of Liberty, a team it beat twice on the road in late October. 


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