Updated Mon, Oct 14, 2013 2:46 pm
Last season, the Ohio hockey team fell two games short of its goal of a national championship. Like the rest of his teammates, defenseman Derek Rahme then embarked on a long summer left to wonder what he could do differently to avoid suffering the same fate this year. Unlike his teammates, though, Rahme’s answer came when a simple text message flashed across his cell phone.
“‘You have a pretty good shot at playing forward,’” is what Rahme recalled receiving from assistant coach Michael Callan. “I could feel it coming. I wasn’t totally sure, but I was really excited about it.”
Now, defenseman Derek Rahme is forward Derek Rahme, and he has been very impressive making a seamless transition between two very different positions. He has yet to score a goal in five games this season, but his play has earned him the confidence of head coach Jonathon Sheridan.
“I’ve loved how he’s played since the move,” Sheridan said. “He brings a ton of energy to the team. He goes out there and plays with his heart on his sleeve.”
Sheridan has used Rahme in all situations. Whether it’s been five-on-five, the power play, or the penalty kill, Rahme hasn’t looked out of place, even though he’s still adjusting to life on the offensive side of the puck.
“Forward is a lot more tiring,” he said. “Defense is more of a sprint, and offense is more of a marathon. It’s a little bit different, but it’s all part of the game. It’s all hard work.”
Coming into this season, Rahme had to learn how to operate a forecheck for the first time in his life. He’s had to learn how to find his assignments on the backcheck and know where to be from a forward’s standpoint in the defensive zone. All of these adjustments and countless others are why players don’t swap positions often. To do all this, it takes a special player, according to Sheridan.
“It has to be a player who’s comfortable with themselves and comfortable with their skillset,” Sheridan said. “You have to have a full understanding of the game … just a smart hockey player, really.”
Rahme has demonstrated that true gift of hockey sense. He has a mind that allows him to process what’s going on, where he needs to be, and what could happen next. Moreover, his hockey sense isn’t the only thing helping him shine in his new role. Rahme’s experience as a defender has him naturally gravitating towards filling a huge void left by two departed seniors.
“For the first few weeks, I’ve noticed I’m playing a lot of defensive roles,” said Rahme. “I’ve taken some defensive zone face-offs, penalty killing. We lost [Jonathan Pietramala] and [Jay Mazzarella], and I’m not going to say I’m going to live up to their hype, but I would definitely like to fill one of those roles.”
Sheridan noted Rahme’s defensive prowess as a forward, too, which is one of the reasons he’s grown comfortable with sending him out on special teams.
“On the P.K., I think having him out as a forward is like a third defenseman. I really like him on the P.K. and he’s done very well for us there.”
The switch to offense is actually one that Rahme requested to make. Rahme says he mentioned it as a possibility to his coaches at the team’s end of the year meetings, and that he’s been interested in using his offensive skills on the offensive side of the puck for quite some time.
“I played defense my entire life, ever since in-house and up,” he said. “I begged my junior coach to let me play [forward], but he wasn’t interested in it.”
Now, Ohio’s coaching staff gave Rahme that chance, and so far this season, he’s made the most of his opportunity. As a forward, Derek Rahme is doing everything he can to make sure the Bobcats don’t end up falling short of their team’s goal again.