Ohio started its 64th season ranked No. 7 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association but quickly showed it was much better than that. With the help of its veterans and an already very developed freshman class, Ohio got out to a strong 6-0 start for the first time since 2019. It swept teams like John Carroll, Alabama and Illinois before losing its first game of the season at Maryville on Oct. 21.
Ohio only lost seven total games during the 2022-23 season, which was much improved from the 20 it lost last season. All of the losses came against ranked opponents, four of them being in the Top 10.
One reason why the Bobcats had so much success this season was that they played so many of their games at home. 27 of the Bobcats' 35 games were played at Bird Arena, so they consistently had a huge support system cheering them on. Playing most games at an arena where they are comfortable and practice almost every day was a luxury for the Bobcats.
However, that doesn't mean the season occurred without a hitch. No team is perfect, including the Bobcats. They had their fair share of trouble in the third period of games when fatigue would start to catch up to them. By that point though, the Bobcats normally had a big enough lead so the fatigue didn't result in losses.
Like last season, Ohio also struggled with unnecessary penalties. Some of its players got disqualified from a handful of games, resulting in an often high number of penalty minutes. Laker Aldridge had the most on the team with 102 minutes.
The postseason was also rough for the Bobcats. They finished the regular season ranked No. 2 with a real chance at winning the ACHA National Championship. However, the two-week break from gameplay they had in between the regular season and the playoffs resulted in a shaky postseason. The Bobcats looked rusty and fell in the tournament's semifinals.
Despite their occasional struggles on the ice, the Bobcats never faltered with their eccentric personalities and exuberant attitudes off the ice. From ‘The Ryans' and their group Halloween costume ideas, Blake Rossi exemplifying what it means to be a student-athlete, Justin Damon falling in love with Athens, Luc Reeve’s penchant for "La La Land" and ‘The Andrews' input on the highly-contested Fortnite debate, they always managed to keep their energy up.
One of the biggest things for Ohio last season was its recruiting. Luc Reeve, Laker Aldridge, Hollander Thompson and Justin Damon all played significant roles in keeping the Bobcats alive in close games or getting momentum going early to set the team off on the right foot. Ohio coach Lionel Mauron agrees that the recruiting success was one of the biggest takeaways from the season.
"I think we need to keep a deeper roster and we need to keep recruiting really well. I think we saw this year that the younger guys were really pushing us and we want to keep that momentum going next year," Mauron said.
Mauron also hopes to recruit a big class in the offseason again and hand over some responsibility to last year's class.
"The young guys from last year will be leading our group going forward," Mauron said.
The future is looking bright for Ohio after this formative season, even though there were some bumps in the road. Mauron is excited to see how the team will change and grow, especially with the loss of nine seniors, including Sam Turner and Ryan Higgins, the two team captains.
"It's going to be really interesting because we're losing such a large senior group," Mauron said. We'll have new roles for the younger guys and the new players coming in will have to make an impact. The team is completely going to change, but we want to be successful."
The seniors were anchors for the team this year, playing a lot of minutes and providing leadership and positive guidance to the younger crowd of Bobcats on the team. Mauron is proud of how the entire team came into its own over the season.
"I'm proud of all of our guys and the way they evolved,“ Mauron said. "They really stepped up in the room to try and create a better culture and that is really helpful for us now to have the guys already doing what we want to do so we can just keep it going."