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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's Sean Hogan and Alex Vazquez will return to Arizona for the first time

Thursday's game against the Wildcats will be Vazquez and Hogan's first against their former team.

In a way, Ohio coach Sean Hogan and junior defenseman Alex Vazquez got the best of both scenarios. 

Both spent a few years with Arizona, three for Hogan and two for Vazquez, soaking up the sun on a team that had plenty of room for improvement. 

They have since traded in for a Midwest climate and a team that never leaves the national championship discussion.  

Now as Bobcats, Hogan and Vazquez will return to Tucson, and then Tempe, Arizona, to face their former team for the first time. 

“I sense a bit of jealousy because I’m winning a little bit more and I left to start winning,” Vazquez said. “They’re out there on the other side of things, I guess.” 

In his two seasons with Arizona, Vazquez and the Wildcats went an uninspiring 28-49. 

Hogan, who’d previously coached Vazquez at the junior level in Wyoming, initially drew him to the desert. But Hogan left the following year for Ohio and Vazquez was no longer where he wanted to be. 

After one more season in Tucson, Vazquez left to reunite with Hogan and win more games. 

Hogan left Arizona for Ohio for two reasons. 

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“One, to move closer to home for sure,” Hogan, a Michigan native, said. “And then second, this is probably the premier ACHA program. Even though we haven’t won a national championship in a while, it’s one of the best ones.” 

Hogan never achieved a winning record with Arizona, but in his final season (2013-14), he took the Wildcats to the national tournament for the first time in eight years.

There is no regret on Hogan's part for leaving Arizona behind. At the same time, re-entering the Tucson Convention Center as the enemy for the first time will be a new feeling for him. 

“That’s going to be different,” Hogan said. “But our focus is to get the wins.” 

Hogan and Vazquez still have plenty of ties to Arizona’s hockey program. Seven current Wildcats are players Hogan either coached or recruited. 

Vazquez, who played in Arizona last season, is familiar with most of the team. He expects a warm greeting from some, like his best friend and former roommate, Alex O’Dea, but is keeping his eyes peeled for the others. 

“There’s a couple guys that I’ve got to watch my back and keep my head up (around),” Vazquez said. “I know they’re going to be gunning for me.” 

Ohio’s single game against Arizona is possibly the last time Vazquez, a junior, will face his former team. 

Aside from winning the game, he has something personal to prove to his ex-teammates. 

“I want to prove that I made the right decision and show that I’m on the winning side of things here,” Vazquez said. “I want to make sure I have a big week and work hard.” 

@JordanHorrobin

jh950614@ohio.edu

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