The Ohio Bobcats will enter the regular season with new leadership for the first time in 12 years, but the face at the top will provide much-needed consistency for one of the ACHA’s top contenders.
Former assistant coach Jonathon Sheridan has been promoted to head coach of the ‘Cats, making him the 12th coach in the history of the program. Sheridan replaces alumni, player and coach Dan Morris in the leadership role.
“I’m excited, nervous, scared; but mostly excited to get started,” said Sheridan shortly after being informed of the decision. “It’s always been a dream of mine to be a coach and for it to happen this quickly is awesome. And to be able to do it at a school that has as much history and support as Ohio is excellent.”
Sheridan spent one season as a member of the coaching staff learning from Morris, who stepped away after winning 344 contests and multiple league and national championships. It is his belief that his time around the Bobcat legend has prepared him for the challenge.
“The things you can say about Morris… It’s unreal. I could go on for hours,” said Sheridan. “He’s obviously a great hockey coach, but also a great life coach for a person. Just from what I’ve learned from him I’ve started carrying myself differently [on and off the ice].”
But really, the opportunity for Sheridan seemed like destiny beginning many years before he arrived in Athens.
Beginning in his earlier playing days in junior hockey and as a captain at Lawrence University, Sheridan received guidance from a couple of former ‘Cats. He played under Steve Witt as a teenager and spent time around Chad Fournier, with each of them preaching the philosophy of Ohio hockey. So rather than envisioning Sheridan as a relatively new face in Athens, consider his experience around Bobcat hockey to be that of a seasoned veteran.
The path to Athens was finalized one year ago. The perfect set of circumstances fell into Sheridan’s lap. One sentence, just eight words, paved the way in a conversation between Morris and Witt.
“I need someone and I need them now,” said Morris as the 2012-13 season quickly approached.
All it takes is one break, one golden opportunity. Sheridan seized it.
“Jon grew up playing hockey with Witt in youth hockey, so he began to see the Ohio hockey philosophy at a young age,” explained Morris. “He was an excellent candidate then, and the same can be said now. I’m happy with this selection. Everyone is apprehensive to change at first, but I think this will make our program stronger.”
The potential for growth for the Bobcats is blaringly obvious, too. Sheridan takes over a club that expects to bring back multiple 40-point scorers, each of its defenseman and a veteran goaltender. Couple that fact with the energy and enthusiasm of the new general on the ice and the situation is ideal.
“There won’t be many teams that outwork a team that Jon coaches,” said Witt. “He will put an incredible amount of effort into the team, just as he did when he played. There will be no issue with players buying into his system.”
But the tall glass that surrounds the Bird Arena ice surface doesn’t constrict his plans. Sheridan was selected as the head coach because he brings innovative ideas concerning education, community involvement and alumni presence.
“I want our guys to get into the programs they enjoy, and I want them to graduate,” said Sheridan. “I need them to also be involved outside of the arena. We have to give back to the people that give so much to us. And the alumni relationship is crucial. They are a huge part of who we are now, so I need to get them involved.”
The plan is ambitious and the pressure on him will be high. Ohio has posted 26 consecutive winning seasons and the current crew expects another deep postseason run. Luckily for the program, Sheridan embraces the stressful nature of the job.
“I like being put in these situations. I like being the underdog in a sense,” said Sheridan. “When things are stacked against you, you’re tested and I enjoy that opportunity to succeed.”
Sheridan will make his debut on September 20th, as the Bobcats host John Carroll.
Other Thoughts Around the Arena:
Assistant Coach, Mike Callan: “Jonathon is a really passionate guy when it comes to the game of hockey, whose already built great relationships with people in the Athens community. I feel that moving forward he will bring a number of new ideas to the program and he will bolster those relationships with individuals in our hockey community.”
Defenseman, Duncan Green: “I’m actually pretty excited about it. It will be a lot different since we’ve had Moe around for such a long period of time, but I’ve had the chance to work with Sheridan for a year now and he clearly knows the game. We shouldn’t have any problem being successful.”
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