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Ohio University junior forward Patrick Spellacy shoots towards the goal during Ohio's game against the University of Pittsburgh on Jan. 29. Ohio won 4-1. (File)

Hockey: Ohio fighting flu and injury bug as CSCHL foe Illinois comes to Athens

The Bobcats have numerous injuries and illnesses plaguing the team heading down the stretch of the season. 

If someone were to look at the Ohio's injury report this past week, that person might think coach Sean Hogan posted the starting lineup for this weekend’s games against Illinois by accident.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, that’s not a lineup card.

Ohio was missing nine players at Tuesday’s practice due to injury and sickness, and all nine are questionable for this weekend’s set against Illinois.

“The only people that care if you’re sick are your mom and your wife,” Hogan said with a chuckle. “If you lose, it’s not gonna say, ‘Oh they were sick.’ Nobody cares is a good philosophy to have, you’ve got to tough it out.”

Notable injuries and illnesses include defensemen Tyler Pecka, Alex Vazquez and Reilly Moore and forwards Diego Breckenridge, Bryan Lubin and Joe Breslin.

Through injuries and sick players, the Bobcats have had to move players to different positions and give them some more ice time than they would usually see.

Freshman forward and defenseman Tom Pokorney, as a result of the numerous injuries, is now playing forward after spending the majority of the season at defenseman. Pokorney played his junior hockey switching between forward and defenseman as well.

“For the two years that I played juniors, I did that a lot,” Pokorney said. “I started my first year as a forward, then I moved back to ‘D.’ It’s good for me to play both, then I can help the team any way I can.”

Despite all the injuries, there are still hockey games to be played for Ohio.

“We have a lot of guys that can play, up and down our lineup,” Hogan said. “This past weekend we were missing a lot of guys again. We’ve still been winning with guys out of our lineup, and we’ve got to find a way to win.”

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Ohio is 1-1 against the Fighting Illini this season, losing the first game 2-0, but rebounding the following night for a 3-2 shootout victory back in October.

Coming to Athens will be a challenge for Illinois, however, as back at their home arena, the Fighting Illini play at “The Big Pond,” a rink that is bigger than Olympic size.

“I talk to their coach about it all the time,” Hogan said. “I tell him it takes a while for us to adjust, and he says the same thing, that it takes them about a period and a half to adjust to the smaller ice. It’s important to come out early and do well early and get them running around.”

The Bobcats will look to use the smaller size of Bird Arena to their advantage, hoping the smaller ice surface can give the Fighting Illini fits.

“This place is smaller, so there’s not as much room for them to skate around, they’re used to such a huge surface,” Pokorney said. “They might be quicker (with the smaller ice surface), but I think it’s to our advantage because we’ve played here all year.”

Victories over Illinois this weekend keep Ohio in the hunt of winning the CSCHL, a goal that is not lost on Hogan.

“We were the regular season champions last year, it’s been a while since someone did that two years in a row," Hogan said. "A regular season championship is a prolonged championship, and it’s hard to win that.”


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