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Ohio junior Matthew Hartman tries to handle the puck around Liberty's goal at Bird Arena on Jan. 15. Ohio hockey will play its final games of the season this weekend.

Hockey: Ohio travels to the desert to take on two Arizona foes

Ohio will face its longest trip of the season when it travels to Arizona to take on Arizona and Arizona State.

When Ohio’s schedule was released in the spring, there was a noticeable weekend series that stood out from the rest. The “pumped up” Bobcats long-awaited weekend is finally here.

Ohio (23-4-1) will travel to Tuscon, AZ, for a Thursday night contest against fellow ACHA Division I opponent Arizona and then to Tempe to take on NCAA Division I Arizona State.

The sets against both squads didn’t crop up out of the blue, however.

Coach Sean Hogan coached at the University of Arizona from 2011-2014 before becoming coach of the Bobcats.

“That probably played a bit into it because I know the guys there and at Arizona State,” Hogan said. “At Arizona State, the coaching staff there has great respect for the Ohio hockey program.”

Junior defenseman Alex Vazquez also has ties to Arizona, having spent two years as a Wildcat before trading in his cardinal and navy blue for green and white.

Those connections are not lost on the rest of the Bobcats, who know it will be an important series for each of them.

“It goes without saying, we know what’s at stake for both of those guys,” senior forward Michael Harris said. “There’s a lot more going into the game for those two obviously, Vazquez is going to be very motivated to help us get that ‘W’ over his old team.”

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The long stretch will begin when the Bobcats travel by bus to Columbus, OH, then fly to Phoenix, bus to Tucson, play Arizona, then bus to Tempe to take on Arizona State.

It would be an understatement to say Ohio has a long weekend ahead of it.

“The main part we’re gonna have to focus on is taking care of our bodies, drinking a lot of water, staying hydrated on the plane,” Harris said. “Traveling takes a lot out of you, a lot more than people think.”

Aside from the thrills of traveling across the country, the Bobcats still have to focus on three hockey games.

“The game against the University of Arizona is huge by itself, we only get one chance to play them this year, so just to help our rankings it will hopefully help us to go out there and get a big win against them,” said senior defenseman Tyler Pecka.

The Wildcats are 6-11-3 on the season in the ACHA, and the Sun Devils are 5-19-2 playing a mix of an NCAA and ACHA schedule.

“For us, the Thursday game is more important for us in what we do,” Hogan said. “The Friday and Saturday games will be interesting to see how we stack up against them at their place, after long travel, against players that could end up with professional contracts.”

The obvious stand out for the weekend is the series against Arizona State, who is playing in its first season as an NCAA Division I team. The Sun Devils will be operating as an independent team through the 2016-17 season, before joining a different conference. 

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Ohio has not faced an NCAA opponent since 2012 when it took on Penn State on Feb. 1 and 2. The Bobcats were swept by scores of 6-1 and 5-3.

“To go against ASU, it’s just an opportunity for us to go against them and show that we’ve got a lot of good players, we’ve got a lot of talent, and we’ve got a great team,” Pecka said. “Just show that we’ve got what it takes.”

@AGill072

ag079513@ohio.edu

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