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The only disappointment came at the very end.
For a team rich with seniors and budding freshmen, Ohio didn’t disappoint. The team climbed to the finals of the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament before falling to Central Oklahoma.
The trip to the national championship game marked the Bobcats’ first since the 2003-04 season.
In the years since, they’ve won no fewer than 65 percent of their games each season, but they always came up short in the single-elimination ACHA tournament.
Though 10 seniors have departed, there is an expectation that another strong year lies ahead. Eight of the team’s top-12 scorers are returning, including center Gianni Evangelisti, a rising sophomore.
Evangelisti will most likely vault from a third-line center to the top line next season, as the two senior centers in front of him have graduated. He finished with 32 points in 28 games — third-best on the team — thanks in part to exceptional puck control and a combination of speed and skill.
On the defensive side, rising sophomore Jake Houston is the best bet to run Ohio’s top power play unit, as he did for most of his first season. Houston led all Bobcat defensemen in assists and points and was named a finalist for ACHA National Rookie of the Year.
Blake Nissen | FILE
Joe Breslin works his way down the ice during Ohio's game against The University of Oklahoma durig the ACHA National Tournament.
While Ohio coach Sean Hogan will probably add two goalies to his upcoming freshman class, he appears to have found his starter for the foreseeable future in Jimmy Thomas.
Despite entering last season’s practices behind seniors Aaron Alkema and Ryan Heltion — who had combined to start more than 90 percent of Ohio’s games the previous three seasons — Thomas rose to the starting role.
He finished his first year with a 13-4-1 record, a 2.38 goals-against average, a .890 save percentage and three shutouts in 19 games.
Ohio dominated most opponents last season, losing two games in a row just twice in 37 games. For all the players the Bobcats lost, many contributors are returning.
Not to mention that this past year’s freshman class was Hogan’s strongest in three years, which suggests that next year’s group may follow suit.
The captain leadership, a topic Hogan stresses, should be a non-issue once again. The players unanimously selected defenseman Jake Faiella as their captain, with defenseman Grant Hazel and forward Mike Palasics set to serve as assistants.
“It’s an honor to be selected as captain of the Ohio Hockey program by my teammates,” Faiella said in a statement released by the team. “I am excited about the upcoming season and feel we have a special group that has an opportunity at success.”Back to The Orientation Guide