Ohio is in a tough situation — but it’s a situation that it’s used to, and one that it’s not afraid of.
The Bobcats will be without some key players in their weekend series against No. 24 Kent State. Their top two point scorers will be out — Gianni Evangelisti and Jake Houston are both heading to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, to represent Team USA in the Winter World University Games.
Ohio might be missing up to two other players as well. Forward and captain Cody Black has been dealing with a leg injury. He’ll be out for sure. Austin Heakins has also been out, but it’s unclear whether or not he will play.
With that, Ohio is going to have to move its roster around. Just like in the Bobcats’ last game, Tom Pokorney will stay at forward and Alex Singley will remain on defense.
In that game against Iowa State, Houston was still on the ice. In his absence, Singley is the fifth defender on the Bobcats’ roster. That means Timmy Thurnau will likely play defense, coach Sean Hogan said.
Ohio’s hoping that all of the absences and injuries won’t affect its game.
“It’s going to take a group effort again,” Hogan said. “I told the guys today (that) it’s nothing different than what we faced before.”
The Bobcats bought into that, and they know they have to go and play their game, despite the roster adversity.
“Everyone buys into their role,” Tyler Harkins said. “Everybody’s got to play their position. No one is going to sit around and feel sorry for you. No one is going to look at the roster at the end of the game and go ‘oh they were missing five guys, four guys,’ whatever.”
Harkins will be a big part of what success Ohio has against Kent State. He’s third in points for the team, just behind Evangelisti’s and Houston’s 34 points with 28.
He also hopes that a lot of those scoring opportunities come with a common linemate, Matt Rudin. Harkins and Rudin played together growing up, and this is the last time the two will take the Bird Arena ice together. Harkins wants to send him, Gabe Lampron — a high school teammate — and the other seniors out on top.
“For some of them, it’s their last home ride,” Harkins said. “So, it sucks.”
Hogan knows that his team will be fired up to send its seniors off the Bird ice on a winning note. He will be reflective on his senior’s time in an Ohio sweater. The Bobcats have been on the cusp of national championships throughout their time in Athens but haven’t reached the final step. There’s still a chance at that glory.
But this weekend, however, will be a celebration of their accomplishments at Ohio.
“It really is incredible,” Hogan said. “These seven guys for these four years, how fast it’s gone. This will be the last time they play a meaningful game in Bird Arena. Time flies, man.”