Bobcats use puck possession and physicality to stifle opponents.
With the amount of goals that Ohio has been scoring this season, it’s easy to overlook their defensive dominance.
When the Bobcats aren’t filling their opposition’s net, as they have this year — averaging more than four goals per game — they’re putting in hard work on defense to keep other teams from scoring.
“Our goal every game is to out-work, out-will, out-compete and physically intimidate our opponents,” coach Sean Hogan said. He specifically cited defensemen Paul Sergi, Tyler Benson and Mike Kretz as players who have stepped up to lead the defensive efforts this year.
As the captain of the team, Kretz is most responsible for getting other players prepared and keeping them motivated. For Kretz and the Bobcats, the preparation to becoming a solid defensive team game in and game out begins during the week.
“It starts with practice,” Kretz said. “We always treat practices pretty competitively. Every day we’re getting better, and it translates to our games.”
Personally, Kretz says he prides himself on limiting mistakes that would lead to odd-man rushes for the opposition.
Whatever the Bobcats are doing, they’re doing it right.
Hogan has been very impressed with his team’s defensive effort so far this season and pointed out that, “it’s not just the defensemen or the goalie … it’s the whole team.”
Ohio boasts an American Collegiate Hockey Association-best 1.05 goals against average this season, allowing just 19 goals in the club’s 18 games. The club is also giving up an average of just under 20 shots per game.
According to Kretz, the defensive success starts in the offensive zone. The Bobcats are a team that focuses its offense around puck possession and getting shots on net.
Ohio has outshot its opponents in 15 out of 18 games as a result of this strategy.
“We’ve been possessing the puck more than any team, se we spend less time in our own zone,” he said. “I think it’s time of possession that’s really helping us.”
Another key aspect of the Bobcats’ defense, as noted by Hogan, is its ability to get into passing lanes and block shots that are headed toward the net.
He also mentioned that the team’s physical prowess contributes to its ability to beat other teams. The true test of a defensive system is its ability to kill off penalties. Ohio has been astoundingly good in that regard this season, giving up just three goals in 79 penalties for a 96.2 percent penalty kill rate.
“We want to be a physical team. Hockey is a physical game,” Hogan said. “If you can win the physical battle, it wears teams down.”
Hogan was pleasantly surprised when he found out just how effective his penalty killers had been so far this season.
All he could say was, “that’s amazing.”