With August winding down, Ohio is ready to pack the next few weeks before the season begins with as much meaningful practice as possible. That sense of readiness is seen in Cole Bell, who has begun his first year as head coach of Ohio.
Bell’s team is caught between both the senior stars who want to finish their careers the right way and the plethora of freshmen who are all eager to prove they can take over when it’s their time.
Bell added 11 freshmen to the Bobcats this past offseason. They’ll be tasked with replicating the careers — and eventually replacing the roles of — Jimmy Thomas, Gianni Evangelisti, Jake Houston and others.
“I kind of struggled between calling us an old team and a young team,” Bell said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors who are really impactful players at the top of the lineup, but then we also got 11 freshman coming in. It’s very top heavy and bottom heavy at the same time, and I’m really looking forward to that.”
Bell is hesitant to call this a transitional year. He believes “transitional” implies Ohio is rebuilding, and the Bobcats aren’t doing that. He knows there will be an adjustment period due to the different coaching styles between him and former head coach Sean Hogan, but Bell is confident that Ohio has enough talent to win this year.
The Bobcats’ new coach is no stranger to the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Bell served as head coach for Jamestown for the last two seasons and brought the Jimmies to the Division 1 National Tournament each year. He was also a two-time captain, voted MVP for Lebanon Valley College and was an ACHA Division I All-Star.
“I think we’ve got a bright year ahead of us,” Bell said. “There’s a load of potential that we’re definitely going to work hard to realize. Also we’ve got to look to the future. In four years we’re gonna have a class of 11 guys which is outstanding, and all 11 will be guys we can count on.”
The Bobcats’ season runs from September to March, so the young core must mature and challenge themselves throughout the grueling season. Bell has stressed that if the team isn’t learning all the time, both the players and himself aren’t doing their jobs.
When asked which team he was most looking forward to playing, Bell simply said “all of them.” He’s never gone against Lindenwood or Iowa State as a coach or player, but Bell says he’s looking forward to taking the season on one week at a time.
“I’m really looking forward to working with this group of kids,” Bell said. “These guys are incredibly talented, incredibly skilled, and I can’t wait to put this structure together with these guys and see their work out there.”
Bell is also very excited to have Bird Arena as his home this season. He’s come to Athens before, both as a player and a coach, and has been in awe of Bird for just as long. He credits it to the passion of the fans, and says the team is lucky to have such a great fan base.
“You could name off a thousand different reasons why they’re so enthusiastic here and everyone has their own reasons for coming,” Bell said. “Being in front of this crowd on a nightly basis is special and something these guys’ll remember and that I’m gonna remember forever.”
Ohio will have its annual Green and White scrimmage to start the season on Sept. 13 at Bird Arena. Ohio’s first game of the season will be against John Carroll on Sept. 27.