Gianni Evangelisti has arguably been Ohio’s most valuable player of the season. The forward increased his resume for the title Saturday night against Pittsburgh.
Evangelisti — who leads Ohio with 38 points, 14 goals and 28 assists — tallied two goals and an assist in Ohio’s 9-1 win over Pitt at Bird Arena to complete a five-point weekend after he registered two assists in Friday night’s 5-0 win.
The performance is even more impressive considering the injury Evangelisti battled in the two games. The sophomore has played through a separated shoulder suffered Jan. 6 against Lindenwood.
Coach Sean Hogan originally expected the injury to keep Evangelisti off the ice for extended time. Evangelisti said he had previously suffered a separated shoulder injury that held him out of the lineup for four to five weeks, and he believed he would rest for a similar length with this injury.
Evangelisti sat for just one game, and his quick comeback has been huge for the Bobcats, who have battled injuries and a short roster for most of the season.
“I’m just kind of grinding through it right now,” Evangelisti said. “I’m not going to lie, it hurts, but it’s doable.”
The pain didn’t appear to hamper any part of Evangelisti’s play on Saturday night. Evangelisti scored his first goal, which gave Ohio a 2-0 lead in the first period, by shooting a puck into the roof of the net and launching Pitt goalie Ben Cirba’s water bottle into the air.
Evangelisti scored his second to gave Ohio a comfortable 5-1 cushion in the second period, gliding the puck through Pitt defenders and between the legs of Cirba.
But his shooting accuracy wasn’t the only part of Evangelisti’s game that looked unaffected from the injury.
In the third period of Saturday’s game, Evangelisti delivered a thunderous hit to an unsuspecting Pitt player who knocked defenseman Shawn Baird to the ice.
Evangelisti’s felt fine after defending his teammate with the big hit, which he did with his opposite and healthy shoulder.
“When I hit guys, I hit them with my other shoulder,” he said. “I kind of babied it a little bit.”
The Bobcats hope Evangelisti’s pain subsides as they head into their final eight games of the season, but they can be assured that their star forward is still capable of delivering the same consistency that has driven No. 5 Ohio’s stout offense.
“(Gianni) is important every night,” Hogan said. “He does a lot of things well for us every night. Even when he’s not on the scoresheet, he’s playing well.”