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Ohio players celebrate after their fifth goal of the game against Liberty, scored by Matt Rudin, at Bird Arena on Jan. 15. Ohio won 6-4.

Hockey: Ohio stresses playing a 'simple game' heading into CSCHL playoffs

The Bobcats are preparing to face Iowa State for a fifth time in the season. 

For the first time in weeks, Ohio put out a healthy lineup for practice on Tuesday. Fortunately for coach Sean Hogan and the Bobcats, the team is getting healthy just in time for the playoffs.

Ohio will travel to Ames, Iowa to take on Iowa State on Saturday in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League playoffs. The Bobcats enter the five-team tournament as the No. 2 seed, and the Cyclones, who host the tournament, enter as the No. 3 seed.

The Bobcats finished the regular season at 28-8-1 and swept the season series against the Cyclones. Ohio defeated Iowa State twice in Ames and then twice in Athens. 

“They’re good and they’re fast,” Hogan said. “We play the game the same way, both teams do. Puck possession oriented teams, but beating a team five times in a row is very difficult.”

If Ohio beats Iowa State on Saturday night, they’ll face the winner of the No. 1 Lindenwood vs. Illinois/Robert Morris matchup on Sunday afternoon. No. 4 Illinois and No. 5 Robert Morris play Friday. 

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But with the most important stretch of the season upcoming, the message from Hogan wasn’t anything new. Rather, it was simple: one goal at a time.

“You just have to make sure your habits are good," Hogan said. "That’s typically how you win championships, make less mistakes than the other team.”

The team echoed Hogan's sentiment and said they want to play a "simple game" to come out champions.

“At this point in the year, it’s almost mental,” junior defenseman Alex Vazquez said. “The team that has the mental strength and makes the fewest mistakes wins.”

Vazquez is playing in his first CSCHL playoff tournament; he transferred from Arizona to play for the Bobcats this season.

“Everything we’ve worked for the whole year comes down to these last couple series,” Vazquez said. “Everybody is putting all their effort in, you don’t want to waste everything we’ve worked for, for one sloppy weekend.”

Freshman forward Matt Rudin admitted to being a bit nervous for the tournament, but said those nerves will fade as the game gets started.

“We’ve proved that we can beat them," he said. "Any bounces can change the game, we just have to prepare ourselves like we’re playing them for the first time again.”

Due to the tournament’s single elimination nature, it is unlike most traditional hockey tournament’s which are typically a three-, five- or seven-game series.

That means that with a bad bounce, or unlikely goal, the Bobcats could be heading home early. 

Even with the unpredictability the tournament presents, Ohio is welcoming the challenge.

“That’s why you play hockey; that’s why we’re here, to win,” Vazquez said. “All of us here have a common goal; a championship is on everyone’s mind."


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