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Grant Hazel goes after the puck during Ohio's game against John Carroll on Sept. 23, 2017. (FILE)

Hockey: Seven things to look for in Ohio's season opener

Coach Sean Hogan sat in the Bird Arena locker room after Thursday’s practice with a big smile.

As he took his skates off, he reflected on the past two years and the changes the years have brought.

“Getting married before the season last year and now having a child, I’m really happy about where I’m at with my life,” Hogan said. “I’m happy about this team.”

The Bobcats will host John Carroll for the seventh consecutive year Friday night with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop. Along with a happy Hogan, here are seven things to look for in their season opener.

Little Mack

Seeing as he and his wife, Meagan, welcomed their son, Mack, into the world this past week, Hogan has plenty to be happy about both in and out of Bird Arena.

In terms of his life in Bird, Hogan returns 18 players from last season’s roster, including the top two scorers in junior forwards Gianni Evangelisti and Tyler Harkins.

Along with a seasoned roster, the Bobcats also have brought in several talented recruits, as well as a defenseman during open tryouts.

By having such an experienced team, Hogan shouldn’t have too much to be upset about prior to puck drop.

Offensive production

In the six years that the Bobcats and Blue Streaks have played, the Bobcats lead the series 11-0-1.

There’s no secret behind Ohio’s 11 wins: The team is able to score — often. Ohio’s average margin of victory is 6.2 goals per game, mainly because of the talent difference between the two programs. Ohio is a perennial power in the American Collegiate Hockey League; John Carroll has seen some success, but not that of Ohio.

In last season’s sweep, 10 different players scored for the Bobcats. Six of those players return for Ohio this season.

Goalie club

One of the ACHA’s best goalies, Ohio’s Jimmy Thomas, will take his place in between the pipes Friday night.

Thomas started in Friday’s game last season and was a perfect 18-for-18 in his first career opening weekend start. As he calls out the systems and checks with his teammates, Thomas will look to be perfect yet again.

He isn’t the only goalie that could see time this weekend, however.

Sophomore Mason Koster started in Saturday’s game last season and performed well. Despite giving up three goals, he posted a .864 save percentage in his first-ever ACHA start.

He and sophomore Jackson Chilberg could both see playing time at any point this weekend.

A man down...

Last season, Ohio’s penalty kill unit operated at a high level. It killed over 80 percent of opposing teams’ power-play opportunities, except in crucial moments.

Perhaps its most crucial letdown was in its overtime loss in the ACHA National Tournament quarterfinal to league foe Illinois. In a 4-on-3 situation, the Fighting Illini edged out the Bobcats’ PK unit to win the game.

...a man up

Unlike its penalty kill, however, Ohio’s power play unit was shaky and unconfident. With a sub-25 percent success rate, Hogan told the team several times throughout the season to be less pass-centric and to be unafraid to shoot.

With a talent gap as apparent as the one this weekend, Ohio should feel more than confident in its man-advantage unit to score goals, or at least put shots up.

Blue Streaks’ top scorers

John Carroll's top two scorers from last season return to the team and will attempt to give Ohio fits. Evan Krueger and Beau Rossbach headline the Blue Streaks' offense. The two combined for 94 total points during the 2017-18 season.

Despite their offensive production, only Rossbach tallied a point in last year's matches against the Bobcats.

Prehistoric beings

New traditions came to Bird last season, but none was more noticeable than the Bird Arena T. Rex.

A cog in the machine for the Bobcats’ weekly visitors, the T. Rex’s appearance rattled several players from teams such as Pitt and Robert Morris-Illinois just a year ago.

As a new season dawns, perhaps even more traditions and antics will arise as well.


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