For most of Friday night’s game against University of Pittsburgh, goalie Jimmy Thomas stood upright with his hands at his hips.
Thomas wasn’t needed for most of the game as Ohio looked to crack Pitt's defense on the other side of the ice; but the goalie was arguably the most important player in the Bobcats’ 5-0 win over the Panthers at Bird Arena.
The shutout, Thomas’ fifth of the season, was much needed for the Bobcats, who started off the new year 1-3 after being swept against Lindenwood and a split with Iowa State.
“(Thomas) made a lot of saves to keep us in that game,” coach Sean Hogan said. “He’s a big factor of our success.”
Thomas was forced to keep Ohio in the game through the first two periods as the offense struggled to find goals. Ohio held a 1-0 lead after the second period despite outshooting Pitt 22-14 and finished the game with a 40-20 lead in shots.
Despite Pitt’s lesser shot totals, it looked ready to upset Ohio. Several of Pitt’s shots in the first two periods came from scoring opportunities in which Thomas was tasked with defending multiple shots in just a few seconds of time.
The first of such Pitt opportunities came early in the first period, when a player had an open net to give Pitt an early lead but was denied a goal from Thomas’ outstretched leg.
Thomas was faced with similar sequences up until the third period. The Bobcats scored two quick goals in the game’s final 20 minutes to build a 3-0 lead, but the game didn’t feel sealed until one final stop from Thomas.
Pitt looked to capitalize on a crucial Ohio penalty with 11 minutes to go in the game and peppered Thomas with several close-range shots. After Thomas managed to keep his net empty yet again, the puck was cleared — as was the Pitt player who nearly broke Thomas’ shutout.
Thomas gave Pitt forward Michael Carrozzi an aggressive push out of his crease, sending the Bird Arena crowd into hysterics and closing the door on Pitt’s desires of a comeback.
“It was just a scrappy game,” Thomas said. “Nothing he did in particular, but his teammates and I didn’t get along, so I had to let someone on their team know that I didn’t like them.”
The Bobcats will need Thomas for the sweep on Saturday night’s rematch at 7:30 p.m. at Bird Arena. Thomas said he may be a little sore, but Friday night’s win made it worth it.
“Absolutely,” Thomas said of the possibility of feeling a little pain on Saturday. “But that’s what tonight’s for.”