A new season gives Ohio the chance to cement its new team as a fierce competitor in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Regular matchups can showcase Ohio’s skills in its division, while old foes can present a challenge after being away from Bird Arena for seasons at a time.
Here are the four series you need to watch for this season:
Iowa State (Oct. 25-26)
The Cyclones might not have been the toughest opponent the Bobcats faced last season, but the rivalry between the two teams was certainly one of the fiercest in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League.
Iowa State had lorded over No. 5 Ohio for much of the season by refusing to budge from its No. 4 position in the ACHA Division I rankings. The script flipped when the Bobcats swept the Cyclones in their series in February, upheaving the Cyclones from No. 4. Iowa State had the last laugh and defeated Ohio in the ACHA National Quarterfinals before being stopped by Minot State in the national championship.
When the Cyclones pay a visit to Bird Arena on Oct. 25, the Bobcats will be gunning for payback for a tournament run that was cut too short.
Michigan-Dearborn (Nov. 1-2)
The Bobcats will open November facing an unfamiliar and challenging opponent in the Wolverines.
Ohio and Michigan-Dearborn haven’t played each other since the 2016-17 season, and neither has degraded much since. Michigan-Dearborn was the No. 2 seed in the ACHA tournament last season with a record of 20-1-1. Despite folding to Iowa State in the ACHA championship tournament, Michigan-Dearborn is a team that cannot be taken lightly, especially with a previous record as spotless as the Wolverines.
Liberty (Nov. 8-9)
While Liberty is not as adverse a challenge as other teams on this list, the series will be a good determining factor for how Ohio stands in the ACHA rankings. The Eagles were the No. 8 seed last year, higher than two of Ohio’s division rivals.
The Eagles serve as a good middle-ground team between teams like Lindenwood and Robert Morris. Liberty can help the Bobcats judge where they stand in the ACHA near the halfway point of the season.
Ohio split its series with Liberty last year after an overtime loss, so it will look for dominance over the Eagles this season.
Lindenwood (Nov. 22-23)
Lindenwood, without a doubt, stands as the largest obstacle standing in Ohio’s way this season.
The Lions entered the ACHA tournament as the No. 1 seed last season, and their 27-1-0 record topped even a nearly invulnerable team like Michigan-Dearborn. Ohio lost its series to Lindenwood last year, but the January series was cancelled due to weather.
Lindenwood has been a strong team for the nine years Rick Zombo has been on the coaching staff. Zombo’s coaching was instrumental in securing all three ACHA national championships Lindenwood has earned. If new Ohio coach Cole Bell wants to present himself as a challenge to Zombo, he needs Ohio to play well in this series.