OHIO Hockey Head Coach Sean Hogan and players (from left) Michael LaFrenier, Joey Breslin, Matthew Hartman and Matthew Rudin will be participating in the 2017 Winter World University Games.

OHIO Hockey Head Coach Sean Hogan and players (from left) Michael LaFrenier, Joey Breslin, Matthew Hartman and Matthew Rudin will be participating in the 2017 Winter World University Games.

Photographer: Stephanie Wolf

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OHIO Hockey delegation headed to Kazakhstan for 2017 Winter World University Games

Members of the Ohio University Hockey Team are taking their talents and Bobcat spirit on the road – not for your average road game, but to compete on the world stage more than 6,000 miles from OHIO’s Bird Arena. 

On Thursday, OHIO Hockey Head Coach Sean Hogan and four of his players – Joey Breslin, Matthew Hartman, Michael LaFrenier and Matthew Rudin – will board a plane for Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they will compete in the 2017 Winter World University Games as part of the U.S. Men’s National University Team. OHIO boasts the most hockey players on the U.S. men’s team, which is comprised of 23 players from collegiate hockey teams affiliated with the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).

“Hockey has been at Ohio University since 1958, so we have an established tradition of recruiting really great student-athletes who can compete at this level,” said Hogan.

This past fall, Hogan was named head coach of the U.S. team and shortly thereafter recorded his 200th ACHA win, adding to the long list of achievements he has made since starting his coaching career in 2003. 

“Any time you get selected to represent your nation in anything it’s a tremendous honor,” said Hogan, who is making his third trip to the Winter World University Games, having served as an assistant coach of the U.S. team in 2013 and 2015. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and such an honor to have been an assistant coach and now to be the head coach. It’s a big responsibility to do well and represent USA Hockey in the best way we can.”

The trip to Kazakhstan marks Breslin’s second time competing in this international competition, having also been selected for the 2015 Winter World University Games that were held in Spain.

“I’ve been playing hockey for most of my life, so to be selected for this team makes it seem like all the hard work has paid off,” said Breslin, a senior from Centerville, Ohio, who serves as a forward on the OHIO Hockey Team. “It’s definitely going to be valuable having gone before. Spain was an amazing experience, so I would tell my teammates going for the first time to enjoy the moment and take it all in. It’s a really fun time.”

“It’s always a sense of pride to have some of the guys you know well and see every day get a chance to represent OHIO Hockey in this way,” Hogan said. “Joey’s been a great player here for four years, but beyond the ice he has a great attitude and work ethic, so he works hard to get opportunities like this.”

The Winter World University Games is the second largest international sporting event, following the Olympics. The competition is held every two years in different host cities. In 2015, the competition was held in Granada, Spain, while in 2013 Trentino, Italy, served as the host city.

“It’s an honor to be selected as one of the players for the U.S. team,” said Rudin, a sophomore from Northfield, Ohio, and a forward on the OHIO Hockey Team. “I’ve always wanted to be able to represent Team USA, so it means a lot for me personally, and it’s a great opportunity for our team.”

“The fact that we do have the most players on the team as well as Coach Hogan being the head coach really speaks to the continued excellence of OHIO Hockey,” said LaFrenier, a junior from Addison, Illinois, who serves as a defenseman for OHIO Hockey.

More than 2,500 student-athletes, representing more than 50 countries, are expected to compete in this year’s Winter World University Games, which kick off Jan. 29 and run through Feb. 8. Like the Olympics, the competition includes opening and closing ceremonies, and features bouts in 12 different sports, including curling, figure skating and snowboarding.

“We’re all excited to travel to Kazakhstan,” said Hartman, a senior from Shaker Heights, Ohio, and a forward on the OHIO Hockey Team. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to go somewhere new and experience a different culture, so that will be really cool.”

The U.S. Men’s National University Team gathered in Boston Dec. 26-29 for a training camp to help prepare for the Games.

“In Boston, we played a few exhibition games. It took a couple days to get acclimated and get to know the coaching staff better,” Hogan said. “To take a team like that overseas without ever practicing together would have been difficult, so I’m really glad we did it.”

“Boston was a lot of fun,” Hartman added. “We got to know the other players a little bit, and everyone on the team started to mesh well toward the end of the week.” 

The U.S. team will make its first appearance in the 2017 Winter World University Games on Saturday, Jan. 28, during an exhibition game against Sweden. The team will compete in its first official match on Monday, Jan. 30, when it faces the team from Canada. That bout will be followed by matches against Slovakia on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Great Britain on Thursday, Feb. 2. Each team is guaranteed four matches before entering tournament play. Qualifying games will be held on Saturday, Feb. 4, and Sunday, Feb. 5, followed by the medal rounds on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and Wednesday, Feb. 8.

“We’re extremely proud to have such strong representation on the U.S. Men’s National University Team,” said Mark Ferguson, executive director of Campus Recreation, which administers OHIO’s Club Sports Program. “It not only speaks to the individual success of those selected but is also a testament to the long-standing tradition and quality of OHIO Hockey.”

Bobcat fans interested in following OHIO Hockey’s progress at the Winter World University Games may watch the Games on the CBS Sports Network and follow the U.S. team on Twitter at @usahockey. 

“I think for us, we’re always in it. We always have a chance at a medal,” said Hogan. “If we go out there and do the little things, we definitely have a chance at success.”

For more information on the U.S. Men’s National University Team, click here.