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Ohio senior forward Vincent Nicolella watches as Illinois freshman defender Benjamin Jeon passes the puck during their game on Feb. 5 at Bird Arena. 

Hockey: With the regular season league title on the line, Ohio travels to Robert Morris

A sweep of the Eagles might be enough for the less-than-healthy Bobcats to defend their regular-season league crown.

During a power play drill at Thursday’s practice, forward Michael Harris — who possesses Ohio’s hardest shot — fired a puck toward the net from his usual spot at the top of the right faceoff circle.

Defenseman Jake Faiella took the full force of the shot off his ankle and dropped to the ice, wincing in pain.

A second later he was upright again and finished the drill. Then he and Harris smiled at each other and hugged it out.

Several Bobcats are still injured, which is common this late in the season. Heading into its last series against Robert Morris, though, Ohio will be wincing through the pain with hopes of emerging as regular season champions of the Central States Collegiate Hockey League. 

No. 7 Ohio (27-7-1) travels to No. 13 Robert Morris (24-10-1) with a chance to sweep the two-game series Friday and Saturday night and become the top seed for next weekend’s CSCHL tournament. 

Ohio split its previous two games against Robert Morris earlier this season at Bird Arena.

Lubin and Pecka remain sidelined 

As noticeable as the additions of defensemen Alex Vazquez and Graham Harwood are for Ohio’s depleted blue line, the continued absences of forward Bryan Lubin and defenseman Tyler Pecka are just as glaring. 

Lubin, who will be missing his fourth-straight weekend with a shoulder injury, said he understands the healing process can be slow and he “doesn’t want to rush it.” 

Pecka practiced Thursday, albeit in a no-contact jersey, and is expected to return next week for CSCHL playoffs, according to Ohio coach Sean Hogan. 

“Pecka, if this was the national tournament, could probably play,” Hogan said. “But we’re going to make sure that he’s okay.” 

Ohio will have seven available defensemen this weekend with Vazquez and Harwood back, which allows Hogan to move utility man Tom Pokorney back up to forward. 

The what-ifs of the weekend 

Ohio is second in its league standings behind No. 2 Lindenwood, which hosts No. 9 Iowa State this weekend. If the Bobcats sweep and Lindenwood fails to win either of its games, the Bobcats would become CSCHL regular season champions. 

Iowa State swept Lindenwood earlier this season, so that matchup could work in Ohio’s favor. 

“I mean it works out good,” Hogan said. “But I wish we weren’t in this position.” 

Ohio would control its own destiny, had it been more successful against Lindenwood. The Bobcats lost to the Lions in three out of four games (once in overtime) this season. 

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This weekend is important to the Bobcats for two main reasons: they can enter the league tournament with six-straight wins, and this is their last chance to impact the rankings before the national tournament. 

“Two big wins would put us in a great spot,” goalie Aaron Alkema said. “We’ve got a chance to put ourselves in a better spot. … We’re looking to take advantage of it.” 


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