Each year, Ohio has three championships it aspires to win throughout the course of its roughly six-month long season — the Central States Collegiate Hockey Leagues's regular season championship and postseason tournament, and the American Collegiate Hockey Association's national title.
The Bobcats are 1-for-1 in their three-part goal this season, as Ohio clinched a share of the CSCHL regular season title with its 6-2 win in Ames, Iowa, against Iowa State on Saturday. Lindenwood earned the other share of the title with its weekend sweep over Arkansas.
Ohio was able to rebound for the win and clinch the divisional championship after a 5-2 loss on Friday night.
"To me, it's remarkable, actually incredible, how we've been able to finish in first place in toughest league in the nation with a short roster and everything," coach Sean Hogan said.
Black moves back
The Bobcats won the CSCHL's regular season title despite dealing with an injury-riddled roster for the majority of the season, and the trend stuck with Ohio in Ames.
Defenseman Jake Houston and forward Kyle Craddick were both injured and did not play against Iowa State. Defenseman Tom Pokorney also served a two-game suspension for his disqualification on Feb. 10.
Houston and Pokorney's absence gave the Bobcats just four defensemen, so Cody Black — a junior who has played as a forward in all his games in an Ohio uniform — moved back to defense for the series.
Black excelled in the new position.
"He was unbelievable," Hogan said. "It really is remarkable how smart of a hockey player he is to be able to go from center to defense. He was really really good, so we were happy to see that."
Black was so good that the team has discussed keeping him on defense for the postseason.
"He's such a team-first guy, and he wants to do anything to help the team win," Hogan said. "That's what's he's done here for three years. I was just so proud of him."
The long bus trip
Hogan blamed Friday's loss on the 12-hour bus trip Ohio endured before the game.
The trip to Ames is the longest bus ride of the season for the Bobcats, and Hogan believes it is why his team struggled to finish on Friday. Ohio gave up three third-period goals after trailing 2-1 before the game's final 20 minutes.
Ohio arrived in Ames at 10 a.m. on Friday, and players immediately had a practice and a meal before catching some sleep prior to game preparations.
It's the same routine the Bobcats usually follow for their annual trip against their CSCHL foe, but the odd schedule proved to be a factor in Ohio's Friday performance.
"We were in it," Hogan said. "But we just ran out of gas. We were just tired. It's just a tough combination trying to win."
The Bobcats won't have to worry about any extended road trips next weekend: Ohio will play Illinois on Feb. 24 in the semifinal round of the CSCHL playoffs at Bird Arena, which will host all CSCHL playoff games from Feb. 23-25.