It’s a new thing that the American Collegiate Hockey Association introduced this season: bye weeks.
The older players on the Ohio roster, such as senior Matt Rudin, aren’t used to having breaks in the middle of the season, other than the weekend after Thanksgiving and the month-long break during the holiday season.
The Bobcats will have their second bye week of the season; they got a week off at the end of October.
This weekend also couldn’t come at a better time for Ohio. The Bobcats are banged up, with three players — Cody Black, Austin Heakins and Gianni Evangelisti — missing games in their series against Iowa State.
“It’s always nice to have a couple days off to rest and recover,” Rudin said.
Rest and recovery is what the Bobcats need after a tough schedule the past few weeks. Coach Sean Hogan has called this part of the season the “dog days.” The ACHA season is a long one, spanning from late September until the end of March. And before the games start, teams are practicing for weeks before that.
And until this season, other than the Thanksgiving break and the holiday break, a team like Ohio would be playing every week, competing against some of the toughest competition in the country.
So heading into the bye week, the Bobcats knew they could push themselves a little harder, earning a sweep against the Cyclones, playing better and harder as the games went on. Jimmy Thomas almost recorded two shutouts, just allowing one goal off a defensive zone turnover behind the net.
They pushed harder because they knew there was going to be a few days off at the end of it. Practice this week was light and fun. Skaters raced each other, and even Thomas wanted in on the fun. That drew the largest amount of cheers.
Hogan has been trying to figure out the amount of push he can give his players during practice coming down the stretch. He’s given the team days off the ice. He’s seen his team’s play improve each week of the semester, culminating in the sweep of Iowa State that clinched the No. 2 seed in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League for Ohio.
He said multiple times after Saturday’s win that the bye week couldn’t come at a better time. With the aforementioned injuries, it’ll be a chance for the team to get checked up on, maybe spend some time at home and get off the ice for a few days.
“Being able to recover and get away from the rink a little bit,” Rudin said. “It gives that extra energy as a team coming back, when you’re practicing again, you’re ready to go again.”
When the Bobcats get back to the ice, they’ll have one regular season series left: their senior series against Kent State. Then they have the CSCHL and ACHA tournaments. A few days off will help heading into those, for sure.