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Ohio forward Tyler Harkins (22) and Ryan Higgins (9) show off their pre-game handshake at Bird Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

Hockey: The rituals, superstitions and gameday routines of Ohio Hockey

Superstitions and pregame rituals are almost always an integral part of a hockey player’s gameday schedule. From locker room handshakes and equipment nuances, each player often has a unique twist to how they prepare for a game.

The 26 players for Ohio are no different, so The Post decided to investigate what each of them do before every game.

No. 1 Jackson Chilberg

In the afternoon before arriving at Bird Arena, Chilberg will take a nap and then complete a stretching routine. The stretches vary depending on what he feels he needs for that particular day.

“I’m not really superstitious, though,” Chilberg said. “I try to stay away from that.”

No. 2 Nick Erker

Erker has to dress himself in a particular order to get ready for a game — right skate, left skate, left shin guard, right shin guard, right elbow pad, left elbow pad. The freshman forward says it has a particular rhythm to it that he likes.

“It just feels better when I do it that way,” Erker said.

No. 3 Ryan Hastings

The only routine Hastings follows is a shower before every game.

No. 4 Tom Pokorney

In the locker room, Pokorney dresses himself by starting with all the equipment on the left side of his body. He’s done it for so long that he’s forgotten the reason why.

No. 7 Gianni Evangelisti

After morning skate ends at 10 a.m., Evangelisti heads back to his apartment at Palmer Place to eat breakfast. After playing Fortnite or watching Netflix, Evangelisti will lie down for his 1 p.m. nap.

When Evangelisti wakes up, he and the rest of his roommates — Timmy Thurnau, Shawn Baird and Jimmy Thomas — are treated to a game day lunch made by Thurnau’s father, who’s known by the roommates as “Big Tim” and regularly makes the trek from his home in West Chester to Athens. 

For Evangelisti, the spread is more than enough for him and his roommates — Thurnau, Shawn Baird and Jimmy Thomas. They never are served the same food twice. Chicken parmesan, brisket and a seafood medley were some of his favorites. 

At 5:15 p.m., Evangelisti arrives at Bird. He dresses his left side first simply out of habit.

No. 8 Kyle Craddick

Every Friday, Craddick calls his dad to catch up on the past week.

For lunch on gameday, the junior forward usually eats pasta, lasagna or spaghetti. After lunch, it’s nap time to rest for the game.

Once in the locker room, Craddick dresses his left side first like many of his teammates, but he has a story behind why.

“I played really well one time when I did it,” Craddick said, “so I just decided to keep it going.”

No. 9 Ryan Higgins

For the players whose parents aren’t there to feed them, their meals are limited to what the dining halls provide or what they can make themselves. 

Higgins has been breaking in a new habit this season — cooking for himself. He always eats chicken fried rice on Friday and shrimp fried rice on Saturdays, and he always eats at 3 p.m.

No. 10 Ryan Leonard

Leonard’s entire routine happens in the locker room. He’ll put his headphones on, stretch his muscles and then tape his sticks. He doesn’t limit himself to one genre when listening to music, but he has admitted Juice WRLD is his favorite artist.

The Pittsburgh native will occasionally drink pre-workout powder drinks to give himself energy, and he always brings granola bars and fruit snacks to keep himself going in between periods.

While putting on his equipment, Leonard will start with his right side before he dresses his left, as opposed to many of his teammates who start with their left.

“My initials are R.L. so I always figured that to mean ‘right before left,’” Leonard said.

No. 11 Jacob Houston

Houston prides himself on being the only Ohio player without a single pregame ritual. He says he just likes to “show up and play.”

No. 12 J.T. Schimizzi

Schimizzi re-worked his class schedule on Fridays so he could take his nap before the game. 

He prefers to show up to the rink two-and-a-half hours before a game to complete hamstring and quad stretches. If he feels he needs extra work, he’ll do several other stretches with Chayse Casto, the Bobcats’ athletic trainer.

Schimizzi dresses himself 15 minutes before warmups.

“I like doing everything in 15 minute chunks,” Schimizzi said. “It keeps everything consistent. If I can do my routine, it’s some assurance that I’m ready to play.”

No. 14 Shawn Baird

At 1 p.m. every Saturday, Baird eats his pregame meal as prepared by Thurnau’s father. His favorite of the meals was a sirloin steak before Ohio’s series against Calvin.

Many of the junior defenseman’s rituals are performed with his teammates. He has special handshakes with both Drew Magyar and Ryan Higgins. Baird and Higgins will also both flip a water bottle before heading to the ice. 

“We always try to add more to our handshakes everytime,” Baird said. “Lots of hands and feet involved. A little bit of yelling too.”

During warmups, Kyle Craddick always shoots a single puck between Baird’s legs.

No. 15 Zach Curry

Instead of loading up during lunch, Curry prefers to eat a big breakfast of omelettes and toast. For the rest of the day, he’ll keep his stomach full by eating a sandwich or two, and he always keeps a bag of Sour Patch Kids in the locker room during a game.

When getting ready for the game, the freshman forward listens to 80’s rock like Journey, AC/DC and Van Halen. His favorite song for gameday is “The Stroke” by Billy Squier.

No. 16 Timmy Thurnau

Before taking a nap at 2 p.m., Thurnau digs into his father’s feast. 

“(The feast) started my sophomore year,” Thurnau said. “Now it’s our running tradition. For Christmas this year, I even got him an apron that says ‘Big Tim’s Kitchen’ on it.”

After his nap, Thurnau will typically drink a bottle of Uptime Energy Drink.

No. 17 Blake Rossi

Blake Rossi walks into Ohio’s locker room at Bird Arena and immediately starts chugging three bottles of Aquafina. The water forces him to use the bathroom before warmups so he won’t need to go in the middle of the game.

Rossi will then wax his stick with Howies’ brand, the wax he always uses. He then applies a new layer of stick tape, and he’s game-ready.

No. 18 Andrew Sacca

Many of the players who live in James Hall will walk to Bird Arena when it’s time to report. Sacca is one of them, but his path to Bird is different. When Sacca walks with his teammates to the rink, his teammates will walk on the path that circles left around the patch of grass at the entrance to West Green. 

Sacca always takes the path on the right.

“I did it before the first game this season and now it’s burned into my head,” Sacca said with a laugh.

No. 19 Alex Singley

On Fridays and Saturdays, Singley uses his free time after pregame skate to do his homework.

No. 20 Andrew Wells

Wells admitted he’s very superstitious during a home series. At 4 p.m. on gameday, he’ll take a quick shower so he can be out the door by 4:40 p.m. to get a sandwich from Jimmy John’s. He switches between two sandwiches on the menu: “The Pepe” or the “The Turkey Tom.”

Wells also listens to music on his way to Bird Arena. Rock ‘n roll is his favorite genre, and “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Mötley Crüe is his hype song.

No. 21 Zach Frank

Frank always starts with the left side of his body when he puts on his equipment.

“I feel weird if I switch it up,” Frank said. “If I accidentally put a right piece on first, I think ‘I can’t do it’ and I start over.”

No. 22 Tyler Harkins

Harkins shares two pregame traditions with Ryan Higgins. Both of them own green and white trucker hats from “Goodguy” apparel, and the two also have a handshake they perform before games.

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Tyler Harkins, left, and Ryan Higgins pose for a portrait in their matching “Goodguy” brand apparel hats after practice at Bird Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

The handshake starts by two quick claps followed by three helmet taps.

No. 24 Scott Bagby

Bagby showers before every game and always wears the same outfit into Bird Arena: a black Ohio University hoodie and blue North Face shorts.

No. 25 Drew Magyar

At 3 p.m., Magyar cooks his pregame lunch — either pasta or rice mixed with meat and vegetables on the side.

On the way to the rink, Magyar listens to the same two songs by Future: “Codeine Crazy” and “My Savages” from the rapper’s 2014 mixtape “Monster.” Although they’re some of Future’s older songs, Magyar has been listening to them for years. 

No. 26 Patrick Roach

Roach doesn’t try to pump himself up too much before a game. Instead, he’ll channel his energy into a more calming mood so he can focus better. He finds listening to country singers Dustin Lynch and Kenny Chesney help him the best.

“I like to get loose,” Roach said. “It gets the muscles relaxed and the head bobbing. We play music during morning skate, and that’s a great time to get loose.”

No. 27 Sam Turner

Before heading to the ice for warmups, Turner and the rest of the Bobcats will sometimes kick a soccer ball around for fun. If it’s warm outside, they’ll play in the grass next to the arena.

After everyone else has finished, Turner will juggle the ball with his feet for 15 minutes to help stretch his leg muscles for the game.

No. 28 Tyler Kallay

Kallay eats at Boyd dining hall before noon on gamedays. He always selects chicken and pasta or whatever Boyd has to offer that day. After lunch, he takes a nap.

Once in the locker room, he listens to music while he stretches and tapes his sticks. Although a big EDM fan, Kallay often listens to DaBaby or Juice WRLD.

No. 30 Jimmy Thomas

Thomas spends his Saturday afternoons watching college football. If he’s lucky, Ohio State — his favorite team — kicks off at noon, and he can watch most of the game before he leaves.

He’s also usually one of the first roommates to eat some of “Big Tim’s” pregame meal. His favorite feast so far was a seafood medley with lobster, swordfish, scallops, shrimp and pasta.

No. 31 Mason Koster

Koster always eats big meals before gametime. His breakfast is usually a spread of egg sandwiches and pancakes. 

For his 2:30 lunch, he loads up on pasta.


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