Ohio Hockey’s Skill is Four Lines Deep

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While every hockey team has its top-line players that garner most of the attention, having key role players that can fill in and play well while the starters are off the ice is vital to having a championship caliber team.

For the 3rd-ranked Ohio Bobcats, their depth has been on display all season. Eight of the 28 players on the roster (excluding the three goalies) recorded double digit goal totals. In comparison, the other four teams in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League (CSCHL) do not have more than four players on their respective teams who recorded double digit goal totals this season.

“It shows on the ice that it is not just our first two lines that have the scoring touch,” sophomore Matt Rudin said. “Every line can score one through four, even our defensemen can (score) too.”

From day one, head coach Sean Hogan has spoken highly of the team’s depth and believes that is what sets his team apart from the rest of the teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).

“Our team is very deep and it shows, we have several players that can score goals on this team so that always helps,” Hogan said. “But at the end of the day our message has always been to outwork, out will and out compete our opponents, which we have done very well at times this year.”

Senior captain Matt Hartman echoed coach Hogan’s thoughts.

“We are the deepest team I have seen all year, if we have a guy go down we have two or three guys behind him who can step up in his position and fill the role,” Hartman said. “We don’t really seem to skip a beat when that happens so that’s very special thing. I don’t think we have had this much depth in the last three years and it’s really nice to have those guys who can step up and fill roles when you have injuries.”

When it comes to recruiting players for the team every year, Hogan’s mindset when looking for new Bobcats is not necessarily to land the top talent, but look for players who have a multitude of skillsets and are versatile on the ice.

“When we recruit that is what we try to do, look for guys who can do a little bit of everything,” Hogan said. “The idea is that during practice we build great habits in our players, so regardless of who goes down we can put a new guy in the lineup who will also have great habits. That is how I think you win hockey games long-term.”

Ohio’s depth came in handy in early February when four of the Bobcats top players left the team for two weeks to play for Team USA in the 2017 Winter World University Games. Players who were in and out of the lineup all season stepped up that weekend for Ohio and their depth was on full display, defeating Pittsburgh 9-0 and 8-4.

“The depth of our team speaks volumes for sure and the fact that we were missing four guys that are overseas right now, it just shows the type of team we have,” assistant coach J.J. Crew said after Ohio’s 9-0 win on Friday, Feb. 3. “We have a mixture of older guys and younger guys. (Patrick) Spellacy and Jake (Faiella) are leading by example and the young guys stepped up too.”

Not only does having such a deep team help the Bobcats during games, but it also is beneficial for the team during the week in practice. With the team having the ability to play five lines, practices can be intense as the players go against one another. This can be valuable because when it comes to games, the Bobcats are usually ready to go from the drop of the puck since they just went through a week of rigorous drills and facing their own talented teammates.

“I don’t know if practices are harder than games but the different situations we go through everyday and we have different days for different drills and in each situation all the guys are giving 110 percent,” freshman forward Austin Heakins said. “So (practice) can become very competitive at times between the guys.”

The coaches are not the only ones who see how deep this team really is several of the players have spoken about the benefits of having such a talented roster from top to bottom.

“That is the great thing, all of our lines are contributing, you couldn’t ask for anything more out of the team,” sophomore forward Cody Black said. “It’s not just one guy doing everything every night, it’s all of us and we’re all working hard and it’s great being out there too.”

While several teams in the ACHA have their top lines producing at a high level, the third and fourth lines sometimes do not have a great deal of production, but for Ohio they have the ability to play four strong lines on a nightly basis, which can definitely be an advantage heading into the postseason.

“Most teams have their first, second, third and fourth line set but we have four lines that can play anywhere every night, we have 28 guys here who can fill in anyone’s position whether it’s forward or defensemen,” Heakins said. “I think (our team) is very versatile and the depth we have is a huge asset to us being able to put different guys in different situations.”