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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: Ohio splits weekend series with No. 2 Lindenwood

In their first series in over a month, the Bobcats went on the road and earned a split with Lindenwood.

With worry of rust after not having played a game in almost a month, the Bobcats quickly crushed the thought that they would start 2016 slowly.

On the very first shift of Friday’s contest against No. 2 Lindenwood, Ohio picked up right where it closed 2015.

Junior forward Matt Hartman scored 31 seconds into the game, putting the Lions down 1-0 and in an early hole.

“We started out hot right from the top, we scored on our first shift, 30 seconds into the game, so it was obviously a good start,” coach Sean Hogan said.

No. 7 Ohio (21-4-1) split the weekend series with the Lindenwood (14-7-0), losing 4-3 on Saturday, but prevailing the previous night 4-2.

“It’s pretty tough every year coming back,” Hogan said. “You go a little longer the first week of practices ... making sure you’re doing the right things.”

The break was not without its positives, however, as the team was able to get healthy adding injured sophomore defenseman Jake Faiella to the back end on defense.

“Getting Jake back was a big bonus,” Hogan said.

Ohio fell on Saturday, as Lindenwood was able to salvage a split. The Bobcats fell behind 3-1 heading into the third period, but were able to cut the lead to a one goal deficit twice before time expired.

Ohio scored twice in two minutes, but was unable to score in the final 14 minutes.

The loss was not necessarily discouraging to Hogan, who thought that his team played the better of their two games on Saturday.

“I just think it was a couple unfortunate bounces," Hogan said.

Lindenwood's fourth goal came off an Ohio stick, with another goal resulted from a 2-on-1 breakaway when the puck bounced over an Ohio skater.

"Things like that,” Hogan said.

The rested Bobcats came out victorious on Friday, however, avenging a previous weekend sweep at the hands of the same Lions.

Hartman tallied two goals in the early going to put Ohio up 2-0, putting Lindenwood on its heels.

“It’s important to set the tone right away, and that’s definitely what we did,” Hogan said. “The first five minutes of that game, they were having a real hard time keeping up, and it was good to see. Lindenwood is a tough out.”

The Lions stifled the Bobcats in Athens last time out with a relentless and physical forecheck, creating turnovers in Ohio’s defensive end.

Hogan felt that the Bobcats improved in that regard over the weekend, leading to the victory on Friday.

“We went over it all week,” Hogan said. “We did drills with the defenseman dumping the puck in, making sure we get to the puck first, then we got it to the other defenseman and broke out."

After a Lion rally to tie the game at two, the Bobcats would put together a rally of their own, scoring twice in the third from junior forward Joey Breslin and junior defenseman Alex Vazquez.

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“It was integral,” Hogan said of the Friday night win. “Being on the road, the Friday night win means on Saturday you don’t have to grip your stick so tight. Obviously you want to win both, but you get that Friday night win, and you know what to do to repeat it.”

It was a promising start for Ohio in 2016, leading Hogan to believe that anything is possible for this year’s Bobcats.

“I think the effort was there, we did the right things,” Hogan said. “I believe that our team has the chance to do something special if we keep playing that way.”

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