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Ohio University forward Nathan De La Torre passes the puck while defended by Lindenwood University freshman defender Graham Zagrodney. The Bobcats defeated the Lions 3-1 on Saturday, November 15, 2014.

Ohio loses CSCHL tournament championship game

Ohio opened the weekend with a win over host Illinois before falling to Lindenwood in the title game

Ohio played on Sunday twice this season. Both times were against Lindenwood. Both times carried heavy league implications. Both times, the two were tied with three minutes remaining. And both times, it was Lindenwood who walked away with a clutch goal in the closing minutes.

Ohio came up just short of its third Central States Collegiate Hockey League title in six years Sunday when it fell to Lindenwood by a score of 3-2. The loss came a day after it defeated tournament host Illinois in the semifinal game 5-3.

“All weekend long, I was proud of the way we played,” coach Sean Hogan said. “I thought we deserved to win a championship with the way we played Sunday, but sometimes these things don’t work out.”

The Bobcats (26-7-5) were forced to overcome slow starts in the first period in each game. Illinois was the first to take advantage of that Saturday, as it got on the board midway through the first and added a second goal with two minutes remaining to gain a 2-0 advantage.

After Ohio finally found the net in the second, however, it had a hard time missing it. Matthew Hartman cut the deficit to 2-1 early in the period, and then Mike LaFrenier and Nathan De La Torre each found the net on power plays later in the period.

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The Bobcats’ momentum didn’t stop at intermission. Tyler Pecka scored early in the third to widen Ohio’s lead to 4-2, before Diego Breckenridge added a fifth unanswered goal minutes later. Illinois scored with less than a minute remaining in the game, but that’s as far as its comeback effort led.

It was the Bobcats second time in as many weeks playing against the Fighting Illini, who visited the Bobcats at Bird Arena in the final week of the regular season, playing to a series split.

“The way they play on the road and the way they play on their own ice is completely different,” Hogan said. “We were able to use some of their habits against them and credit to our guys for outworking them on their home ice.”

Things were still looking up for Ohio when things got underway in the finals game on Sunday, as Patrick Spellacy took a feed from Michael Harris and scored to give Ohio an early 1-0 lead. That lead proved not to be the end of its first period struggles, however, as Lindenwood responded with a pair of tallies of its own to gain a 2-1 lead at the end of the first.

The Bobcats were able to tie the game up eight minutes into the second period, as Liam Geither found the net and deadlocked the two teams.

As the third period played out with neither team budging, it seemed like the game and the tournament may be on its way to an overtime finale. Lindenwood spoiled that — along with Ohio’s title chances — scoring a goal with 2:33 remaining that turned out to decide the game.

Ohio outshot Lindenwood 44-25, including a 36-9 advantage in the final two periods.

“The toughest part about it is feeling like we really outplayed them,” Hogan said. “But we’ve got to move forward. Our focus now is on the national tournament, so we’ll let this one hurt for a while, but then we’ve got to move on and think about winning a national championship.”


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