No. 7 Ohio will play No. 10 Lebanon Valley on Saturday in the first game of the American Collegiate Hockey Association's National Tournament for both programs.
BENSENVILLE, Illinois — At the conclusion of Friday’s practice, the Bobcats gathered at center ice, sticks raised in the air. The last practice of the season ended with a team-only meeting, and upperclassmen gave their final motivational speeches.
The message was clear: The time is now.
“We were just talking about how we’ve got nothing to hold back,” senior forward Derek Rahme said. “This is our last couple games of the year. If we take a shift off, a period off, it’s gonna be the end of our season and we’re not planning on ending it any time soon.”
No. 7 Ohio will play No. 10 Lebanon Valley on Saturday in the first game of the American Collegiate Hockey Association's National Tournament for both programs. The round of 16 matchup will take place at 3 p.m. EST at Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Illinois.
It will be the first ever meeting between the Bobcats (29-8-1) and the Flying Dutchmen.
“We’re confident, I’m confident, that we’ve prepared the guys all year to do it right,” coach Sean Hogan said. “You just have to be calm and let the game come to you.”
The Flying Dutchmen (25-6) play in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League, but will be returning to NCAA competition next season, competing as a D-III school.
Without having played Lebanon Valley in Ohio’s history, there is only a small scouting report — on either side — heading into Saturday’s game.
“They’re pretty quick team, an opportunistic team,” Hogan said. “They’re good at creating odd-man rushes, and we just have to make sure that we have three guys back. If we can maintain puck possession, I think we have a good shot to win.”
Senior Michael Harris was candid about the matchup when asked about what the Flying Dutchmen will present on Saturday.
“To be completely honest, I don’t really know,” he said. “And I don’t really care. We go out and play Bobcats' hockey, it doesn’t matter who we play.”
Harris and Rahme, two of the five seniors on the team, will try to play the “Bobcats' hockey” Saturday to advance to the quarterfinal round against No. 2 Stony Brook.
“It’s up to us to dictate what game it is,” Rahme said. “It’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be a grind, but I’ve really got nothing to hold back for. I’m gonna be sitting at my desk next year, and I’d much rather be doing this, so that’s what I’m gonna be thinking about.”
In order to stave off elimination and defeat Lebanon Valley, Harris said Ohio has to play its game
“We need to maintain focus on our game,” he said. “We’re a little worried about what Syracuse and Stony Brook are doing, but it’s not gonna matter if we don’t win. We need to take it one step at a time, one game at a time, then we can worry about the next.”
The one step at a time approach starts Saturday with a face off against a Flying Dutchman squad that has defeated Stony Brook twice.
“Whatever happened from August and September doesn’t matter,” Harris said. “It’s all about what matters now, and that’s one game at a time.”