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Hockey: Game against Minot State to be mentally, physically arduous
Minot State might not be the easiest school to find on a map, but Ohio coach Dan Morris knows that the North Dakota squad will be anything but a feeble opponent.
The Beavers have ascended to fifth in the American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings; only one spot behind the Bobcats in the ACHA rankings. They also pose one of the bigger matchup problems Ohio has seen this season, as the team looks to avoid its fifth-straight series split.
The Beavers boast an ample size advantage against the Bobcats, as more than half their roster as listed as 6-foot or taller.
Size is one of the concerns Morris has heading into the weekend, as the Bobcats (14-2-2) welcome the Beavers (11-3) to Bird Arena for a two-game series.
“They’re a big and skilled team,” Morris said. “And our rink, a smaller rink, really fits well into their game. So it’s going to be a big challenge for us both physically and mentally. They’re definitely going to take the opportunity to come into our barn and play well.”
But Morris feels that the game plan Ohio has worked on in practice during the week has it prepared for a talented Beaver squad.
“We want to own the walls,” he said. “And we want to take care of the puck along those walls. Plus, we want to have an edge on the one-on-one battles. We can’t turn the puck over. And if the puck makes it to the middle of the ice, we want to dominate that area as well.”
Freshman center J.D. Howard echoed his coach’s strategy, but doesn’t think the Bobcats should alter their play very much for each opponent.
“We’ve all heard that they’re big and like to throw the body around,” Howard said. “We’re probably going to try to keep the puck along the wall, but we’re not trying to stray too far from what we’re doing right now. Ideally, we just want to keep with the system we’re learning, make sure we keep guys low and support the defense.”
And Howard, who scored two goals in Ohio’s most recent game — a 7-1 win against Illinois — said that though it would be nice to tack on more goals this weekend, it doesn’t matter where the Bobcats’ offensive production comes from as long as it’s there.
“Any way we can score, we’ll take it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s for me, (Brett Agnew) or any of the guys. As long as someone pitches in and does it, we’ll have a good time.”
One of the opposing players Ohio will have to look out for is sophomore forward Michael Jordan, who has been one of the Beavers’ stars on the offensive end. He has done his best to live up to his namesake, leading the team with 10 goals and nine assists this season.