No. 6 Ohio avoided a repeat of last season's one-and-done in the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament in Strongsville, Ohio, today, rattling off five unanswered goals in the final two periods and defeating No. 14 Liberty 5-2. Ryan Heltion got the start in goal for the Bobcats and picked up the win.
Ohio (26-5-6) fell victim to its familiar first period woes early on, allowing Liberty to take a 2-0 lead in the game's opening frame.
"The first period, we played with a lot of nerves," coach Sean Hogan said. "We played hesitant, and that's not our style. I told the guys to remember that we've been in this spot before, we've been down two goals, and we're eventually going to score and we'll go from there."
The Bobcats, desperate for a regroup in the second, turned to their bread-and-butter, and found Michael Harris on a power play, who in turn found the back of the net to give Ohio its first goal of the game.
Later in the period, the Bobcats got another power play opportunity, and Harris was once again in on the action. Though this time, it was in the form of a pass to Patrick Spellacy, who got a shot past Liberty's goalie to tie the game up.
The game was going to be decided by the team with the stronger showing in the third period, and Ohio was not going to be bested. With just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation, newly-converted defenseman Derek Rahme found an opening and gave the Bobcats a 3-2 lead.
It turned out to be the moment the floodgates opened, as just 1:09 later, Spellacy struck again with a strong shot into the back of the net to put Ohio ahead 4-2. Just over 30 seconds later, Mike Palasics came off the left wing to send yet another shot past the Liberty goalie.
"We've learned to battle back," Harris said. "We're actually better when we're down, because we really turn it up. Going into the third, we were really ready to go, and once we popped that first one, we knew we were just going to keep pouring it on."
Liberty sent its goalie to the bench with 2:36 remaining in favor of an extra skater, but it was far too late to make a difference. The man advantage wasn't enough to get Liberty an extra score, and the Flames' tournament hopes came to an end.
With the win, Ohio advances to face Minot State on Sunday at 10:00 a.m.