Just before it all gets serious, before Ohio plays its final three regular season weekend games heading into the playoffs, the team made time for a fun event to support a worthwhile cause.
The Bobcats hosted their sixth-annual Ice Ghosts exhibition game Friday, in which the team played against a group of alumni as an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
In addition to the $4,845 raised online before the game, a portion of the ticket sales will also be donated. The event started in 2012, when Becky Fuhs, the mother of former players Jim and Jared, was diagnosed with cancer during the 2011-12 season.
The game is a laid-back way to bring Ohio hockey players together and play for something other than a win on the ice.
“It’s kind of considered an off-week,” freshman center Gianni Evangelisti said. “Having all the alumni in town, getting out and having fun skating, (there’s) not a lot of pressure.”
The Bobcats beat the alumni 5-4 but were outshot mercilessly. There was no hitting, of course, to keep everyone from getting hurt, but fans were treated to plenty of open ice scoring chances and challenging deke attempts that rarely happen during the seriousness of a regular season game.
“We tried to keep to our systems a little bit,” said junior winger Drew Crandall, who didn’t dress for the game. “But at the same time, it’s kind of nice to try out some new moves you might have.”
Ohio, in their home whites, and the Ice Ghosts, in purple practice jerseys that had an American Cancer Society logo on the front, skated with noticeable enjoyment.
Whistle stoppages were always filled with laughter. Scrums in the corners featured playful shoves and stick taps. The in-arena announcer even made fun of Ian Smith, a former Bobcat goalie who was refereeing the game, for his unsightly green helmet.
“I think (Smith) lost a bet,” Crandall said of the helmet.
In such a relaxed environment, the fine-tuned elements of a hockey game often fall by the wayside. Passes aren’t always crisp, shots sometimes miss the net by a few feet and the goalies are forgiven for a cheap goal or two.
The purpose of the Ice Ghosts game was most apparent when it ended. When 45 past and present players stayed on the ice to chat and joke and laugh some more. When current players met their predecessors, and those predecessors had a chance to reminisce on some of the best times in their college years.
Then, the whole group piled together at center ice for a photo to show unity: as a program and toward a fight against a disease.
The focus on the next month and a half, as Ohio guns for a deep run in the national tournament, was halted for the night, for something more important.
“It’s kind of like our mini homecoming for Ohio hockey guys,” former winger Diego Breckenridge said. “Definitely a day in the year that we all look forward to.”