We here at A Sea of Red have a special treat for our hockey fans this week.  Your #15 Liberty Flames host the #8 Ohio University Bobcats for a pair of games at LaHaye Ice Center Friday and Saturday.  The Ohio Bobcats are one of the most successful and historical programs in ACHA hockey, and we were fortunate to get to speak with three young men that cover the Bobcats.  We talked about Ohio’s program, where they’ve been, and where they are going.  The Bobcats are one of, if not the best covered team in ACHA hockey, and we really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Anthony, Robbie, and Matt.  Be sure to check out these guys’ twitter feeds and websites.  They really do excellent work.  Thanks again to them for helping us out this week!

Duke Cuneo: Let’s start by telling us a little about yourselves and what you do related to Ohio Hockey.

Anthony Poisal: I’m a sophomore at Ohio University and I cover the hockey team for The Post Athens. Generally try to release at least a feature story or two on the team per week. With my co-worker/pal Matt Parker, we try to write three stories each weekend on the slate of games.

Robbie DiPaola: My name is Robbie DiPaola and I am a 5th year senior here at Ohio University majoring in journalism. I came to Ohio because of its elite journalism school and I have aspirations to be a sports writer when I am done with school. Growing up in Northeast Ohio I was not exposed a lot to hockey growing up besides watching it on television all the time with my dad.  My love of hockey comes from my dad, he played when he was younger and still follows the sport closely today. While at Ohio University I have worked with the Ohio hockey team for the entirety of my time here at Ohio. I currently work for WOUB Public Media, where I cover the Ohio Bobcats Hockey team. Before that I worked directly for the team’s media department where I ran all social media accounts and wrote recap articles for every home game.

Matt Parker: My name is Matt Parker, I’m a student-reporter for The Post Athens. I’ve only been on the hockey beat since the summer, but in my short time have acquired a lot of knowledge.

Duke Cuneo: Ohio is one of, if not the most storied program in the ACHA.  What is it like covering a team with such a great pedigree?

Anthony Poisal: Not going to lie, it’s awesome. The history of the team is a big reason why Bird Arena is packed and loud every weekend and it makes for a very realistic sports environment when covering the team’s home games. I heard that even a few of the die-hard Ohio fans here will be making the trip down to Liberty this weekend, so heads up.

Robbie DiPaola: It really is an honor to cover this team.  From the head coach, to the players they have all been extremely nice and helpful.  The team enjoys the coverage and are always willing to talk and do interviews upon your request. I knew little about the history of the team when I first came here, but getting to learn about Ohio’s storied past has been awesome.  You know week in and week out you are going to see quality hockey, which is great. I am truly going to miss covering the team when I graduate at the end of the semester.

Matt Parker: It’s pretty neat covering such a storied program. Day by day learning the ins and outs of what makes Ohio hockey tick is a continuous process and each day I have interaction with the team I see more of the things that make Ohio such a legendary program.

Duke Cuneo: The Bobcats are a consistent top 10 program, but haven’t won a National Championship since 2004.  What does this season’s team need to do to get back to championship form?

Anthony Poisal: There’s an argument that they have been in championship form the last few years. They’ve always finished well above .500 (their last season in which they finished with a record below that number was 1987) and nearly won it all last year. The question for Ohio right now is its health and depth. The Bobcats had just 16 skaters, not including goalies, at one point in last weekend’s games, and they went 1-1 against No. 11 Stony Brook (both games ending in OT). That’s solid and showed that they can still compete with a thin roster. The back-end players will need to continue stepping up like they did last weekend if Ohio wants to get back to the national championship this year.

Robbie DiPaola: I mean to be honest there is nothing really they have to change to get back to championship form.  There is an expectation and a mindset here at Ohio that anything short of a national title is ultimately an unsuccessful season. In my time here Ohio has constantly been in the top 10 in the ACHA and been a national title contender every year.  I’m sure you know how tough it is to win a championship in any sport, let alone hockey.  Ohio has suffered some tough breaks in the past years at the national tournament and the puck just hasn’t bounced their way at times, but the championship pedigree and expectation is always there.  Last season’s team was within one game of winning a title and simply got beat by a better team that night. This year Ohio has to overcome a plethora of injuries that have them shorthanded at the moment, but with head coach Sean Hogan guiding the way, Ohio will be ready to play every time they take the ice.

Matt Parker: For Ohio to win the national championship it’s going to have to do a lot of things really well. For starters, the Bobcats power play must improve (a dismal 11%), they’re also a really young team with not a whole lot of ACHA experience so they’ll have to grow up – which should happen as they play every weekend. Jimmy Thomas (goalie) will also have to keep playing at the level he has been.

Duke Cuneo: Liberty is known for having a top notch facility in the LaHaye Ice Center, as well as a premier in game environment.  Ohio also has a strong reputation in that regard.  Can you compare and contrast the two buildings and environments?

Anthony Poisal: Well, I wish I could be there to see it this weekend, but we are not able to travel to many road games. I’ve seen pictures and have heard great things about LeHaye, but I don’t need to go there to know that the age of the two rinks sets them apart. 60-year-old Bird Arena’s ice is one of the smallest in the ACHA, smaller than an NHL-size, and the roof is so low that pucks are flipped and caromed off the rafter every game. When the place is packed, however, it’s probably one of the most intimidating rinks in the ACHA. LaHaye seats way more than Bird, and the video board is obviously a nice touch. Both rinks share similarities in its environment, but each are very unique, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Robbie DiPaola: Ohio’s Bird Arena has been around for 60 years, it is a historic facility. Fans pack the rink every game and the atmosphere is electric most nights. LaHaye Ice Center from my understanding is relatively new and one of the nicest overall ice hockey facilities in the country. So the two facilities are very different in terms of their age and overall appearance. From an overall atmosphere standpoint I can imagine Liberty has a passionate fan base just like Ohio, which probably gives the Flames a great home ice advantage.

Matt Parker: I wouldn’t say Bird Arena is a “top notch” facility as after every game and practice both players and coaches alike mark remarks on how awful the ice is – what makes Bird special however is its fans. People come from all over the state and even West Virginia to see the Bobcats play on Fridays and Saturdays.

Duke Cuneo: Liberty and Ohio have built a bit of a rivalry since Liberty moved up to D1.  As a program that has enjoyed more post-season success than Liberty, does the team view Liberty as a rival?

Anthony Poisal: So I haven’t gotten to my preview for this week yet (I’ll be asking questions to coach, players, etc about that tomorrow), so I’ll ask this question to clarify then. This question is also why I put my disclaimer at the top, but with what I know and from the conversations I’ve had about the schedule with the team, I don’t think Liberty is a huge rival to them. I’d need to see the intensity of a game or two in order to determine that, and that’s what I’ll get this weekend.

Robbie DiPaola: I know when I first started working with Ohio’s hockey team, the games between Ohio and Liberty were dubbed a rivalry.  I don’t know necessarily know if the players now would consider it a rivalry now, but coach Hogan used that word when I talked to him this week. Overall the team is looking forward to the opportunity to travel to Liberty and play a quality opponent this coming weekend.

Matt Parker: To be quite frank, I’m not sure whether or not Ohio views Liberty as a rival or not.

Duke Cuneo: What in your mind are the keys to this weekend’s games?

Anthony Poisal: Bottom-six forwards and bottom-line defenseman need to continue to prove that Ohio can win games despite its thin depth. The Bobcats proved last weekend that their conditioning is solid by taking each game into overtime, and with another decent team in Liberty, don’t be surprised if another overtime game or two happens again.

Robbie DiPaola: For Ohio their first key will be to score first.  When they are able to get an early lead everything else seems to fall into place. Another key for the Bobcats will be to perform better on the power play.  The team’s last power play goal came on October 6th vs. Jamestown. Since then the power play unit is 0-25 and haven’t found a rhythm as of late. A third key will be the team’s energy.  The team has played their best hockey in the third period all season long.  It is typically the first period that has given Ohio fits this season. As the game goes on Ohio gets better and of they are able to get the early lead it may be difficult for Liberty to come back on them, especially with Jimmy Thomas in net.

Matt Parker: If Ohio is looking to leave LaHaye Center with two wins its going to have to adjust to the ice well (the ice at Bird Arena is smaller than most ice that other teams have); along with the ice, the Bobcats are going to have to have a short memory, the roster is down pretty low (18 skaters at most) – power play and getting shots in the net not just on goal need to happen for them to succeed.

Duke Cuneo: How does the Ohio team stack up to ones over the past few seasons?

Anthony Poisal: This team is young, but has the potential to carry the same level of talent that’s dominated team’s in past seasons. Ohio has consistently outshot opponents but has ran into some bad luck. The best example of this is a few weeks ago when Jamestown came to Athens. Ohio nearly doubled Jamestown’s SOG totals that weekend (apologies for not knowing the exact numbers), but lost both games. Ohio’s power play is also converting on just 10% of its chances and is 0 for its last 23. Yikes. That needs to get better.

Robbie DiPaola: This team is a young one in comparison to Ohio teams in the last few years. Just about 3/4 of the team this year is made up of freshman and sophomores. Last year Ohio was lead by 10 seniors, this year they only have 3 seniors.  The Bobcats look different than in years past but even though they are very young, Ohio is still incredibly talented overall.

Matt Parker: This years’ Ohio team is different compared to teams of the past solely because they are so young. The Bobcats only have three seniors (Jake Faiella, Drew Crandall and Mike Palasics) compared to 15 underclassmen.

Duke Cuneo: Does the team have any non-hockey plans for the trip to Virginia?

Anthony Poisal: Not that I know of. Sorry man. Matt and I each wrote a story based around traveling with Ohio on its first road trip this season, so check those out here if interested.



Robbie DiPaola: I don’t believe so.  They are traveling to Liberty with the sole purpose of winning 2 hockey games.

Matt Parker: If the team has any non-hockey plans for this weekend I am unaware of them.

Duke Cuneo: Tell us who Liberty fans should be watching for on the ice for the Bobcats.

Anthony Poisal: Gianni Evangelisti has a dangerous wrist shot, leads the team in goals and will probably have at least a goal or two this weekend. Tyler Harkins knows how to put some touch on the puck and his size will deceive defenders. Defensemen Shawn Baird, Grant Hazel and Jacob Houston know how to lay a hit.

Robbie DiPaola: One player to watch is sophomore center Gianni Evangelisti.  He leads the team with 15 points through 10 games (8 goals, 7 assists).  Evangelisti stood out in his first year here in Athens.  Toward the end of the season he was even paired on the top line in some of Ohio’s biggest games.  He is the real deal and will be one of the leaders for this team moving forward.  Another player to watch this weekend is sophomore goaltender Jimmy Thomas.  Last year as a freshman he got the start over two seniors goaltenders quite often.  In Ohio’s run to the national title game last season, Thomas started all four games and was one of the main reasons why the Bobcats were there in the title game. Thomas has started 9 out of the 10 games this season for Ohio.  In those 9 games he has a goals against average of just 2.01 and is 6-2-1.  Thomas gives the Bobcats a great chance to win every time he is called upon to start for Ohio.

Matt Parker: Liberty fans should watch: Gianni Evangelisti (F) Tyler Harkins (F) Faiella (D) Thomas (G) Palasics (F) Grant Hazel (D) and Shawn Baird (D)

Duke Cuneo: Give us a plug on where our readers can read/view/listen to your coverage of Ohio.

Anthony Poisal: My twitter is @anthonyp_2 and go to thepostathens.com to check out previous content and what we see from this weekend.

Robbie DiPaola: You can follow me on Twitter (@R_DiPaola16) for hockey updates.  Or you can follow this link to my page on the WOUB sports website to read my articles on the hockey team. https://woub.org/post_author/robbie-dipaola/

Matt Parker: On twitter @mparker_5, @anthonyp_2, @thepostsports & read our stories at thepostathens.com & our weekly podcast on the free app “Bumpers” show is call “Behind Blue Lines”

Duke Cuneo: Score predictions for the weekend?

Anthony Poisal: Ohio has gone 6-0 against Liberty in the past two seasons. Expect close games, but I think that trend continues this weekend.

Fri. – Ohio 3-1

Sat. – Ohio 4-3

Robbie DiPaola: Ohio is in a tough spot this weekend as they will be shorthanded due to injuries.  However it is no excuse for the team going forward, they still have the talent to win both games. It is all about execution for the Bobcats. If they execute the right way they will come away with two big road wins.  Nonetheless, given the circumstances Ohio is currently facing, I will call for a split between Ohio and Liberty this weekend. I see Liberty edging out Ohio 3-2 on Friday and Ohio getting a 4-2 victory on Saturday night.  Both games will be competitive and I look forward to seeing what takes place this weekend on the ice at LaHaye.

Matt Parker: Not a fan of predictions, but I think Ohio and Liberty will split the series with Liberty winning Friday and Ohio winning Saturday

The puck drops at 7PM Friday and Saturday night at LaHaye Ice Center.  The games will also be streamed live on LFSN and The Big South Network.  Should be a great pair of games.