Austin Heakins has set routines before games. He developed them during his freshman year.

He gets on the ice for warm ups and Tyler Harkins is waiting to pass him a puck. At the end of warm ups, Jake Houston is waiting to pass him a puck.

Heakins wasn’t sure if those routines would still be there, though, after he missed the past two months with a leg injury. The injury came just one weekend into the season. One weekend after his return to the ice after taking last year off to focus on his academics

“It felt good to get back to it and not feel like I was gone too long,” Heakins said.

Even though he missed all that time, his contributions were immediately felt Friday night. He collected two assists in Ohio’s 3-1 win over Robert Morris-Illinois in Bird Arena. 

Along with the two assists, Heakins’ speed and size at the forward position brought a noticeable physicality to the ice. That’s something Ohio has been missing since Heakins has been out.

Seconds after the opening faceoff, Heakins made a hit along the boards, getting himself into the action right away.

“I was a little hard on the boys while I was out about (the missing physicality),” Heakins said. “I told them if they didn’t want to listen to me, I’ll go out there and show them, as a joke. It just so happened I got my opportunity right away in the game.”

As the clock ticked toward the ten-minute mark in the third period of a 1-1 game, Heakins found himself on the score sheet for the first time during his return. He assisted on a Gianni Evangelisti goal. 

Two minutes and 44 seconds later, Heakins got himself on the score sheet again. This time, assisting a Tom Pokorney goal.

It was like Heakins never left.

“It was such a huge pickup, getting him back,” Pokorney said. “He’s such a big body, fast skater, good on the forecheck. He’s real skilled, great passer. He’s huge to have offensively.”

With everything that Heakins brings to the table for Ohio, his size is one of the most noticeable. He’s got the size of a defenseman and the speed of the fastest forwards. That combination spells good things for the Bobcats, especially in a big area of focus: the forecheck. Pokorney’s goal — his second of the night — was started by a forecheck by Heakins and Evangelisti. 

“He’s a big fast kid, “ coach Sean Hogan said of Heakins. “He’s got a long reach, we want him to utilize that.”

It probably wouldn’t have mattered to Heakins if he got his name on the stat sheet in the Bobcats’ win. It was good for him to get back on the ice after having to step away for personal reasons last year and being forced to sit out for practically the first two months of the season.

“This season has definitely been more of an emotional roller coaster than last,” Heakins said. “It was kind of more of a personal decision to step away last year to focus on academics, so that was more personal. All that hype I had coming into this year, like ‘boys, I’m coming back, I miss you, I can’t wait, I missed you guys so much last year,’ and I get to play one weekend of games and get told I’m going to miss two plus months. I think that one hit me harder than having to step away because of personal reasons.” 

@trevor_colgan

tc648714@ohio.edu

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