On the Road Again


A look inside a roadtrip with the Ohio Hockey team

Trevor Colgan / Slot Editor

Nick Grose had to run back inside Bird Arena. He had to make sure all the sticks were packed on the bus. He climbed back on the bus, and the driver checked to make sure everything was set.

She turned back and asked coach Sean Hogan to make sure everyone was on board.

“We’re leaving them if they aren’t here,” he said.

A quick laugh and then the bus got started to drive down Oxbow Trail, on its way to Lynchburg, Virginia; Ohio was on its way for a two-game weekend series against Liberty.

Road trips for Ohio — a club team — are always interesting. Most of the schools the Bobcats travel to are far away, and the team has little to no budget for more than a one-night stay in a hotel, which means long bus rides through the night after the Saturday game.

This might be the Bobcats favorite trip of the year. LaHaye Ice Center is one of the best rinks in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. But before they can get there, they have to go on a 5-and-a-half-hour bus ride, the shortest the Bobcats make during the season, in comparison to the 11-hour ride to Iowa State.


Trevor Colgan | SLOT EDITOR

Scott Bagby helps unload the team bus at LaHaye Ice Center on Nov. 9.

Ohio came into the series against Liberty ranked No. 6 in the country. It began the season scoring double digit goals in the four games against John Carroll and West Virginia. It had only lost one game outright, a 5-3 loss to Iowa State.

The ride to Lynchburg starts with a movie. The team has a discussion about what movie is going to be first. They bring a case of DVDs, with about 30 or 40 choices, but whatever movie is chosen normally ends up being the same old movie.

“Same ones every time,” senior forward Matt Rudin said.

The first movie that freshman forward Ryan Higgins was sent up to put into the DVD player was American Wedding — the unrated version. As the film begins, the guys on the bus start to spread out on their seats, some covering themselves with blankets to catch up on some sleep after the 8 a.m. leave time.

One movie done, another one needs to go in. Higgins heads back up, this time with Wedding Crashers.

At about 11 a.m., three hours into the trip, the bus rolls into a rest stop. Guys start perking up, ready for a chance to take a bathroom break or get some coffee.

Hogan asks Higgins to take a head count as the team piles back onto the bus.

“Poor Higgins,” Hogan laughs. “I turn around and he’s the first guy I see.”

The correct number of players are back on the bus, and soon the bus is back on the road to Lynchburg. The team, and Hogan especially, loves this trip. Hogan probably loves it because he hadn’t lost as the Bobcats’ coach against Liberty.

As the bus rolls further along the 315-mile trek through West Virginia, Wedding Crashers comes to an end. Next up, Scott Bagby, a freshman defenseman, gets to make the movie selection. His pick? Zombieland.

Surprisingly, it’s a new movie to the team. That’s one of the duties of the freshmen: supplying new movies.

“We have a bunch of movies on the bus they’ve all seen,” Higgins said. “They want to see something new. The other day I got a good three-for-three deal at Walmart… Couldn’t be happier about that.”

There’s about two hours left on the drive to Lynchburg. That means two hours until the first full meal the Bobcats will eat since leaving Athens — if they didn’t eat in the morning.

The bus pulls into the Courtyard Marriott Hotel. The team begins piling into the lobby, as Hogan hands out room keys. The team meal will be ready in the conference room soon.

The pre-game meal menu typically consists of pasta. For the trip to Liberty, it came from Vinny’s, a local Italian restaurant. Trays of chicken alfredo, ravioli, potatoes and salad are delivered to the hotel.

Then, it is time to nap. Two hours until the bus leaves for LaHaye.

Players start streaming out of the hotel lobby at about 4:40 p.m. Captain Cody Black, a forward, is the first on the bus. Grose and Shawn Baird are the last, as they needed some last-minute coffee.

Getting to LaHaye was an adventure. The directions Hogan provided the driver from the second row of seats put the bus on a dead end. The bus had no room to turn around, so she backs the bus all the way back down the road. Hogan laughed, told her to ignore him and said she can do her job. But as Ohio finds its way inside the arena, it’s stepping into one of the most unique places to play in the ACHA.

“It’s always a lot of fun when we play here,” Hogan said.

Two hours are left until puck drop. The players find things to do in the arena until they have to get ready to play. Tyler Harkins, a healthy scratch for Friday’s game, buys Chick-Fil-A from the Liberty student union next door.

Now, it’s game time. Ohio storms back with three third period goals to win 3-2. Tom Pokorney scored the game-winning goal off a deflection from a Gianni Evangelisti shot. It was the end of the comeback that helped the Bobcats ease the sting of a tough first 40 minutes.


Trevor Colgan | SLOT EDITOR

Ohio players join Liberty players in a post-game prayer in LaHaye Ice Center on Nov. 10.

Players move from a celebratory locker room to the bus. Now it’s time for some post-game food. Some head over to a restaurant by the arena with their parents, and the others get back on the bus for some pizza.

“It’s always terrible pizza,” Hogan said. “This time, it’s Little Caesars.”

Time for sleep. For as long as Friday felt, Saturday is going to be busier.

Saturdays in the ACHA are about killing time. Most teams have little to no budget for trips. Ohio is one of those teams that doesn’t have a budget, Hogan said. That means the Bobcats have to figure out ways to kill around five hours after hotel checkout at noon— they can only stay one night — and puck drop.

“Saturday’s in the ACHA are a lot of waiting around,” Hogan said.

But before departing the hotel, the Bobcats hold a team meeting and film session in the conference room. The normal software doesn’t work, which happens often. Luckily, the game was streamed on ESPN+, and Ohio made do. Hogan needed his team to see how bad it struggled early in Friday’s game.

After film study is checkout, the team piles onto the bus, with not much time to relax until after the game at 10:30 p.m.

A team meal is first up on Saturday’s itinerary. It’s Vinny’s again. This one comes with a little more food — and fun.

Forks and knifes start banging on the table, and the players look down. They’re checking their shoes. It’s a game called “shoecheck.” Someone crawls under the table with a spoonful of salad dressing. If they get caught putting dressing on someone’s shoe, they have to sing. But if they don’t get caught, whomever gets the dressing on their shoe has to sing. Jake Houston is the victim this time. He has to sing a capella in front of the team.

A few minutes later, more banging. Bryan Lubin, a senior forward, is the victim. Houston and Lubin now plan a duet, a rousing performance of “Breaking Free” from High School Musical, complete with Houston flapping his arms like a bird along to the “soaring, flying” lyric.

After another pasta lunch from Vinny’s, the team heads to their planned event to kill time: The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Most of the time, the team doesn’t have anything planned.

Since Ohio has such a small budget program, other than food and one night in a hotel, it’s not often the team can have planned activities. The tour is a welcome change of pace. But members of the Blue Line Booster Club, one of the biggest sources of funding for Ohio, got tickets for the team to check out the memorial.

“Ohio hockey would not survive without donations from our alumni and the Blue Line Club,” Hogan said. “It’s just that simple.”

The team takes a guided tour through the monuments. It’s cold, but the team enjoys learning about the history. It’s always a change from the typical Saturday afternoon activity, which is usually nothing.


Trevor Colgan | SLOT EDITOR

The Ohio hockey team poses for a photo at the National D-Day memorial in Bedford, Virginia, on Nov. 10.

“It just made me appreciate everyone who is involved in war,” Rudin said. “Just protecting us so we can live a peaceful life.”

It also inspired the team. Greg Forquer, a booster, gathers the team after the tour is over and asks them who they are playing for. Each other, they answered.

“Coming from him, it really pushed us,” Rudin said.

Even though the team had plans for some of the day Saturday, they still had time to spare and stopped at the old and reliable Walmart. They wandered the aisles, searching for snacks to eat after the game.

After killing 40 minutes in Walmart, it’s time to head back to LaHaye. It’s 5 p.m., two hours until puck drop. Those two hours are killed by streaming college football, kicking around a soccer ball and finally, warm-ups.

The team begins by stretching in the arena’s concourse, and 30 minutes before the game, is on ice to get skating, shooting and goalie warm ups.

“You just got to look up to everybody. You know you’re going to have to go get sticks, you know you’re going to have to do all that stuff you don’t want to do, but you know you’ll get to their spot eventually.”Ryan Higgins

Saturday’s game is unlike Friday’s as the Bobcats lose in overtime, 3-2. The locker room mood is a lot more subdued after they gave up a lead going into the third period, and their power play unit went 0-5.

“A lot longer ride when we lose,” Hogan said.

As the players lug their gear to the bus, a welcome treat has been provided by the parents and boosters. Jimmy John’s subs await the team instead of pizza. The bus pulls out of LaHaye and begins the long return trip to Athens.

As the bus pulls away, Higgins finds his way to the front for another movie; this time it’s Old School. And again, it’s something he doesn’t mind. He knows it’s a part of his duties as a freshman.

“You just got to look up to everybody,” he said. “You know you’re going to have to go get sticks, you know you’re going to have to do all that stuff you don’t want to do, but you know you’ll get to their spot eventually.”

After Old School and The 40-year Old Virgin, the trip remains silent as the the team stretches out to sleep.

The bus rolls down Richland Avenue past Peden Stadium and The Convo. It’s almost to its final destination at 4 a.m.

“Shortest trip of the year,” Hogan laughs, looking back at his tired team.

Development by: Megan Knapp / Digital Production Editor

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