Updated Thu, Dec 1, 2011 12:22 pm
As the Bobcats toured the abnormally empty and quiet University of Phoenix Stadium, a messaged flashed up on the stadium video board:
"Welcome Ohio University Bobcats"
As the nation's sixth-ranked squad begins its long weekend in the state of Arizona, only time will tell if it 1. Will be a welcome guests within the state's borders, and 2. If it can light up the scoreboard in a similar manner.
Ohio tangles with both schools that bear the state's name this weekend, beginning tonight with the #20 Wildcats of the University of Arizona.
The Wildcats (8-7-1) enter the contest no stranger to ACHA top ten opponents. Like the Bobcats, Arizona has knocked off #5 Iowa State and #7 Oklahoma.
The offensive efforts are led by Brady Lefferts and Andrew Murmes, who've combined for 61 of the Wildcats' points this season.
In net, Dave Hermann has gotten the bulk of the starts. The junior has posted a 4-4-1 mark with a 2.87 goals against average.
The Tuscon Convention Center is not an unfamiliar stomping ground for coach Dan Morris, who won an ACHA National Championship in that building in 1995.
The matchup is a tall order for any squad, but more so in the event the nation's fourth-ranked squad is waiting in the wings.
After tussling with another breed of cat, the boys will head just over 100 miles north to the Tower Ice Plaza to square off with #4 Arizona State.
The Sun Devils (15-5-2) are putting together a special season in the desert. They've been idle since Nov. 13, when they wrapped up a 3-0-1 road trip in Michigan with a surprising overtime loss to Adrian College.
They enter the doubleheader with a bevy of scoring threats, sporting 12 players who've registered at least 10 points so far.
Ohio has a daunting obstacle standing between them and the back of the net. The Sun Devils boast reigning ACHA All-American Mark Shacker. In 15 appearances, Shacker holds a 10-3-1 record with a 2.49 goals against average.
The 'Cats, however, are riding a wave of offensive momentum after outscoring their opponents 13-2 in last weekend's Wheeling Mountaineer Invitational. The team got an added boost to the roster that weekend with the return of Jonathan Gulch. The sophomore posted an emphatic return, drawing first blood against West Chester and notching his first goal of the year.
Ohio now must deal with one of the shortest turnarounds of the season. The team had Monday and Tuesday to practice before hitting the road early Wednesday morning.
Tonight's game against Arizona is slated for 7:30 Pacific Time, 10:30 Eastern.
Stay locked with ohiobobcatshockey.com for the full recap of every contest.