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Ohio sophomore defenseman Tom Pokorney is one of the Bobcats who, upon appeal, will not be suspended for Friday's game against Illinois. (FILE) 

Hockey: No. 2 Ohio wins suspension appeal ahead of series at No. 15 Illinois

If the Bobcats hadn't appealed the suspensions handed out after Saturday’s second period line brawl against Pittsburgh, they would've been defensively shorthanded when opening their final road series of the season.

Due to Ohio sending video footage of the fight to American Collegiate Hockey Association officials, four of the team's five skaters involved have had their one-game suspensions lifted as No. 2 Ohio begins its two-game series at No. 15 Illinois on Friday.

Games will start at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the University of Illinois Ice Arena. The rink is nicknamed the “Big Pond” because of its massive ice surface (192 feet long and 115 feet wide), which is two feet longer and 30 feet wider than Ohio’s Bird Arena.

Email appeal

It’s no accident that the 12-man fight that broke out after Bryan Lubin’s goal Saturday was caught on tape. The Bobcats record all their games and clip footage to be used in film sessions.

This time, the tape helped salvage eligibility of four players in Friday’s game at Illinois.

When the fight ended, all players on the ice were handed game misconducts for fighting. In standard league protocol, those players would all be suspended for their next game.

But assistant coach Nathan De La Torre uploaded a video of the fight and emailed it to ACHA Division I Men’s commissioner Brian Moran and referee-in-chief Ed Giacomucci for further review.

Assistant coach J.J. Crew said he’d thought the Bobcats had a worthwhile case for appeal because not many punches were thrown in the altercation. Ohio heard back Wednesday that forward Gabe Lampron will be its only player suspended for Friday's game.

If Ohio’s defensemen involved in the fight — Reilly Moore and Tom Pokorney — had been suspended, the Bobcats would only have five defensemen available to dress Friday. Crew said he’s unsure which forward would’ve filled in on defense if it had been needed.

“Hopefully we don’t have to come to that,” he said. “Nothing real definitive on whether or not anyone is capable of playing back there … It’s kind of difficult when you haven’t practiced playing defense the whole season.”

Evans out for the season, Evangelisti out for now

Ohio’s defensive unit will be without freshman blue liner Tom Evans for the rest of the season after his MRI this week revealed a “slight (ACL) tear” in his left knee, Crew said.

Evans left last Friday’s game against Pittsburgh in the second period after being slew footed at center ice. “Slew footing” is one of hockey’s most dangerous plays, in which a player uses his skate to trip another player from behind unexpectedly.

The injury drops Ohio to seven defensemen, which is typically the number it starts every night. That leaves a very little margin of error for the players who are still healthy.

“We’re definitely going to have to take better care of ourselves, make sure we’re not getting hurt, not putting ourselves in situations to get hurt,” senior defenseman Moore said. “But also, on the flip side, not putting ourselves in a situation to get an (ejection) or a misconduct because we’re doing something stupid.”

Freshman center Gianni Evangelisti, who was also injured last Friday, suffered a bone bruise as a result of an incidental knee-on-knee collision and is expected to miss two to three weeks, Crew said.

Evangelisti is the team’s leading scorer (12 goals and 32 points in 27 games) and has anchored the team’s highly successful third line all season. Crew hopes he will be back in time for the Central States Collegiate Hockey League playoffs, which is two weeks away in Bensenville, Illinois.

“Obviously Evangelisti is a hard guy to replace,” Crew said. “He does so much for us offensively and defensively. But I think Saturday we showed the depth that we have. I feel like guys are confident being placed in certain situations that I don’t see an issue going forward.”


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