When he arrived at Ohio in 2019, Sam Turner was just another freshman. One of an 11-player freshman class for the 2019-2020 season that had to prove that he belonged with the Bobcats.
By the end of his freshman season, Turner had his proof in spades. He was a regular on the ice and was skating alongside Ohio’s veterans like he’d been at Bird Arena for years.
Yet Turner, who was one of the few freshmen to get regular playing time alongside top players last year, is not concerned about age. In his eyes, age isn’t important to the success of his team. What is important is being able to rely on each other.
“I think age doesn’t have too much to do with it after you get your feet under you,” Turner said. “That’s the cool part about our team. We got a lot of young guys but, we all trust each other, I think they trust us and that’s why it works.”
Turner, a Powell native who previously played for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs of the United States Premier Hockey League, had been recruited by former Ohio coach Sean Hogan.
The sophomore played high school hockey all four years at Olentangy Liberty High School, just north of Columbus.
Turner often traveled for hockey, and remembers making frequent trips to Boston. After trying out for the Jr. Monarchs, he played in New Hampshire for a season after high school. But Turner had already wanted to play at Ohio, even before leaving New Hampshire for Athens.
“I always was in contact with OU. I knew in high school OU was where I wanted to end up,” Turner said.
Turner had been in frequent contact with Hogan during his high school career. After Hogan stepped down as coach in 2019, Turner wasn’t phased. He joined Ohio’s roster alongside 10 other recruits for the 2019-2020 season.
“It was kind of interesting to me,“ Turner said. “I got recruited by Hogan and knew him, then found out that Hogan’s leaving, we’re getting a new coach. I remember one day I got a call from coach (Cole) Bell, I think I was at the rink at that point. He just introduced himself, said ‘hi.’ I knew he didn’t recruit me so that’d be a little more of an obstacle to get over, I guess. But that was kind of it. It didn’t really change too much.”
This season has only improved the sophomore’s standing. Turner, who is an alternate captain this season, has started in 10 of Ohio’s 20 games this season.
Turner says he owes a lot of credit to his former teammate, Jake Houston.
“When I started playing more, I started playing with him,” Turner said. “He took me under his wing and gave me some pointers, and kind of showed me how to step into his role the year after that, so I think he made that transition really easy. I still talk to him quite a bit, you know different questions about you know, he was running the power play last year so now I kind of took over that job.”
In the 2020-2021 academic year, Turner hasn’t had the same opportunities to show out due to this season being shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. But Turner is just grateful to be on the ice at all. At one point before the season began, practices were limited to six players. The chance to play games at all is a miracle by Turner’s account.
“I think we’re all just thankful to be playing,” Turner said. “I think everyone is just happy we can play, and we’re doing everything we should be, getting tested like every other day, staying safe, wearing the masks.”
With the shortened season, the Bobcats have also seen games added to their schedule without much warning. The uncertainty is a challenge, but it helped Turner and his team stay flexible.
“I think that it’s been good for us to learn how to kind of stay agile, stay flexible,” Turner said. “Like we get notified of a game two games before it happens and it’s like, ‘OK. Adjust and adapt.’”
Aside from the pandemic, this season has been a steep hill to climb for the Bobcats. Turner called his team’s schedule “the hardest schedule in the league by far,” as they have had to regularly go up against Liberty, Lindenwood and Adrian, three of the best teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Nonetheless, Turner still believes that his team has gotten better every week, and that it can go up against anybody.
“We stayed positive,“ Turner said. “We knew we would have a tough start to the season. We knew we were likely to drop some games early but I think beating Adrian, I think that was pretty special.”
Turner sees a bright few years ahead for Ohio’s young roster, but he is still focused on the present. He still believes that Ohio has a chance heading into the ACHA National Championship.
“I’m really excited for the future. Every week we just keep getting better,” Turner said. “And it sucks we’re gonna have to lose some of our guys, but I think what’s important is we’re getting better every week, and we’re kind of gaining momentum heading into the national championship, so definitely looking forward to that.”