As the game clock on the scoreboard flashed all zeros and the horn sounded for the final time Saturday, goalie Jimmy Thomas let out a heavy sigh of relief as his weekend came to a finish.
No. 8 Ohio had swept No. 3 Lindenwood.
The sophomore faced some of both the American Collegiate Hockey Association and the Central States Collegiate Hockey League’s best the past weekend — but for Thomas, the stage was never too big.
“We really had to bear down in practice this week and get back to the basics,” Thomas said. “We had to make sure we were really sharp and in tune for this weekend.”
The Bobcats were sharp and tuned in this weekend as they limited the Lions to just one goal in two games. Lindenwood, before its series with Ohio, averaged 4.82 goals per game.
“Credit to my players in front of me,” Thomas said. “They played great tonight; they didn’t really hang me out much to dry.”
The Bobcats' (14-3-1) defensemen rose to the occasion of the weekend and returned to the basics by blocking shots, being rough on the boards and communicating.
“I thought we played really well,” junior defenseman Grant Hazel said. “We knew we had to play our game, and we did.”
Despite being outshot 23-22 in Friday’s game, the Bobcats' defense and Thomas didn’t allow much of an offensive system from the Lions (11-3-3) to get set up. Saturday’s box score, however, showed more shots on goal than the previous night, but the game still fell in the Bobcats' favor.
Much like how Thomas credits the defensemen for his performance, Hazel knows this performance wouldn’t have been possible without their goalie.
“Jimmy bailed us out; he was the star of the weekend,” Hazel said. “He’s our rock back there, and it’s easy for us to play in front of him.”
The youth of the Bobcats, especially on the defensive end, was once thought to be one of the weak points of the team. Those doubts have vanished and, with performances similar to this weekend's, Ohio will only see improvement in the long run.
Despite all the success that comes with a sweep over a league opponent, coach Sean Hogan knows his defense still can find ways to improve.
“We need to do a better job of winning puck battles in front of our own net,” Hogan said. “Just more urgency out of our zone.”
As the three stars of the night were announced, Bird Arena erupted at the sound of Thomas being called back out onto the ice.
“He was unbelievable,” Hogan said. “He was lights-out; one of the best weekends I’ve seen him play since he’s been here.”
Amid injuries and a rigorous schedule, the Bobcats will have a much needed week off from practice and games due to the Thanksgiving holiday.