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Ohio forward Nick Erker (#2) handles the puck in the offensive zone during the Ohio Bobcats game against the Liberty Flames on Friday, March 5, 2021, at the Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio. (FILE)

Hockey: Nick Erker plays his part in Ohio's first game against Niagara

Nick Erker hasn’t always been making big plays for Ohio this season, but he’s stepped up in his role as of late. The junior was one reason why Ohio was so close to winning on Friday against Niagara. The Bobcats lost 3-2 in overtime at Bird Arena, but Erker did his part to help them put up a fight. 

Erker is somewhat new to Ohio’s rotation. He played in just five of Ohio’s 11 October games, but played in almost all of Ohio’s November matchups.

When practices and games aren’t going in a positive direction, sometimes all that is needed is a little change of pace. Erker did just that. When things weren’t going his way as a winger, he switched to center. 

Erker’s play has improved immensely since then, and he’s seen many more opportunities to have an impact on his team. He has scored a goal in each of Ohio’s past three games, including one on Friday against Niagara. Erker scored Ohio’s only goal in the second period, allowing it to reclaim the lead after being tied at 1-1. 

“That’s just great to see that he’s scored so many goals in a row,” Ohio coach Lionel Mauron said. “(I’m) very excited for him.”

Moving to center has not only allowed Erker to make offensive plays on the ice, but defensive ones as well. Mauron likes what he has seen from Erker on defense, and is happy to see his efforts and position change paying off. 

“I think center on our fourth line is great for him,” Mauron said. “He’s really good defensively. (He’s) very strong on his stick so he carries that line, and then when you do the right thing defensively you get rewarded for it.” 

Even if he wasn’t on the ice the entire night, one aspect of Friday’s game that Erker really assisted in was keeping Niagara from scoring on power plays. The Purple Eagles were zero-for-three on the power play thanks to some of the defensive efforts by Erker.  

“He’s a big part of our penalty kill and I thought our PK was very good tonight,” Mauron said. “We rely on him for a lot of the defensive efforts from our team, and I know it doesn't always show on the scoreboard but we really, really need him.” 

Erker is one of many players on Ohio’s strong roster that brings a positive impact to the team during games and practices. Players like him help keep Ohio’s practices competitive and hard-working, which can pay off during games. 

However, having so many great players on a team can be a challenge. It can make the decision of who gets to start or play in games more difficult. Sometimes talent doesn’t get used to its fullest potential. 

“I have to make a lot of tough decisions,” Mauron said. “I wish I could play more players, but I think it’s just part of the job at a big competitive level.”

Even though they lost, the Bobcats stayed in the game the whole night. Erker was a big part of why. Even if the overtime period didn’t go his team’s way, Erker still stepped up when his team needed him most. 

@molly_burchard8

mb712319@ohio.edu

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