No. 6 Ohio dropped an 4-3 overtime heartbreaker to No. 3 Minot State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday.
No. 6 Ohio waited all season for an overtime goal to go its way.
From late-season heartbreaks at Bird Arena to the final blow dealt by Lindenwood in the league title game, the Bobcats endured several late-game gut punches throughout the season, hoping they would be the lucky ones when it counted most.
But when No. 3 Minot State turned a broken play behind the net into the game-winning score in yet another overtime during Sunday’s quarterfinal game, it proved to simply be an agonizing pattern of reality for one of the most promising and talented Bobcat rosters throughout the last decade.
Ohio fell to Minot State 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the American Collegiate Hockey Association tournament — one round farther than in 2014, when the Bobcats were ousted in the second round.
The loss came a day after Ohio unleashed five unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 victory over Liberty.
Sunday’s quarterfinal began the same way as the previous day’s game, with Ohio falling behind 2-0 in the first period. It also featured the same kind of recovery on the part of the Bobcats, as junior Matt Hartman scored Ohio’s first goal with eight minutes remaining in the first before junior Michael Harris added a power play strike less than two minutes later to tie the game.
“We’ve just been a confident group all year,” senior defenseman Michael Kretz said. “We know that we can beat any team we play, and no matter how many goals we’re down, we never panic and we never give up. We just look to each other and know we can do this.”
The second period was much more defensively sound, with both teams amping up the physicality and both goalies acting as brick walls for their respective squads. This went on until Harris once again found the back of the net, pushing the Bobcats ahead 3-2 entering the third period.
The Beavers didn’t let the Bobcats sit too comfortably with their lead, waiting less than five minutes to tie the game. Shortly thereafter, Ohio ran into more trouble, as Hartman picked up a major penalty and a disqualification for an altercation with the Beavers’ Riley Hengen.
Ohio banded together to kill four minutes of the ensuing power play before Minot State committed an interference infraction, providing a key stop in keeping the teams locked up for the remainder of regulation.
“(The kill) was fantastic,” Hogan said. “It was a tough call to put us down 5-on-4 for five minutes, but we just knew we couldn’t complain and we had to get the job done. And we did that for four straight minutes, they couldn’t get into the zone and then we drew a penalty. Credit the seniors for getting everybody going in that situation.”
Neither team budged for the first 11 minutes of the overtime period, as tension gradually built inside John Carroll’s ice arena in Strongsville. When the deciding goal came, it proved to be blindsiding — with the two teams battling for the puck in the corner before it came loose and Cole Olson sent it past Bobcats sophomore goalie Ryan Heltion for the win.
“Sometimes, that’s the way the puck bounces,” Hogan said. “Our goalie played great all game long, and it’s definitely frustrating. You feel for the seniors, guys who put their heart and soul into the program for four years.
“I could not be more proud as a coach. I’ve been coaching 10, 12 years, and this is by far the best group of guys that I’ve coached.”
Sunday’s loss concludes Hogan’s first year as head coach of the Bobcats, who finish the campaign with a 27-8-5 record. Harris tallied three goals and an assist in Ohio’s two national tournament games, while sophomore Patrick Spellacy added two goals and an assist.