Bobcats look to avenge tournament loss from a year ago
It hasn’t been easy stretch of the schedule for Ohio, which has faced ranked opponents in each of the past four weeks.
It doesn’t get much easier this weekend when the Bobcats make a 12-hour road trip to Ames, Iowa, to take on one of its biggest Central States Collegiate Hockey League rivals in Iowa State (8-4-0).
“They’re probably up there with some of the most hated teams we play against,” senior defenseman Michael Kretz said. “We knocked them out of a couple tournaments in the past couple years, and they beat us in a close game in the tournament last year, so things are always heated between us. We’re looking for vengeance this time around.”
Ohio (9-2-1) enters the weekend coming off a weekend split at another CSCHL opponent on the road against Illinois. The Bobcats have gone 2-2-1 in road contests this season, compared with a perfect 7-0 record at home. The Iowa State series will be the final road tests for Ohio before a stretch of eight straight games at Bird Arena.
The rivalry goes beyond the fact they’re CSCHL opponents. Ohio had beaten Iowa State in three straight tournament matchups before the two met in the round of 16 of the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament last March. Iowa State won that game 3-1, cutting the Bobcats’ title hopes short.
The accomplished goalie who shined for the Cyclones in that game, Matthew Cooper, has returned this season and will be a tough challenge for the Bobcats to overcome.
A seasoned goalie is something the Bobcats could use some action against, as each of Ohio’s losses have come in games in which it has drastically outshot its opponent, but couldn’t get one or two goals when it counted.
The coaches and players say studying film and putting bodies in front of the goaltender is what is going to help them be more efficient on offense.
“I think the keys are going to be playing sound defense and maintaining good puck possession,” coach Sean Hogan said. “If we keep the puck more than the opposing team and we’re not just giving it away, we have a real good shot. We don’t want to play a high scoring game. We’re gonna win by keeping our opponents to two or less goals.”
Ohio is led in scoring by forward Joe Breslin, who enters the weekend with 14 points and six goals. Forward Michael Harris has 13 points, including a team-high eight goals.
The Cyclones are led by Zach Johnson, who has 14 points on the season and nine goals. Two players have 13 points, plus another with 12.
Iowa State is the third road CSCHL series of the year already for the Bobcats — a part of the schedule Hogan says could benefit the team later in the season.
“Bird Arena is a tough place to play at,” Hogan said. “It’s a smaller ice surface than a lot of teams are used to, and all of the road trips we’re making now, those teams are going to have to make the same trip later. Whether we’re at home or on the road, we have to find a way to win.”