No. 6 Ohio's five unanswered goals Saturday morning were more than enough take down No. 11 Liberty 5-2 in the American Collegiate Hockey League tournament's round of 16, but now the Bobcats must quickly turn their attention to a new challenger in No. 3 Minot State.
In its win, Ohio (27-7-5) had to overcome an early 2-0 deficit, but bounced back with a pair of power play goals and then ran away with the game with three third period goals. It will take on the Beavers at 10:00a.m. on Sunday.
"(Minot State) is a lot like Liberty," coach Sean Hogan said. "They're a big and physical team that can score the puck well. But, if we can dominate the puck possession, we've got a real good shot at winning."
Minot State narrowly avoided an upset on Friday when it survived an overtime scare from No. 14 Davenport, 5-4. The Beavers were outshot 53-38 by Davenport in the game, and trailed 4-2 as far as eight minutes into the third period before mounting their comeback and moving on in the tournament.
Minot State, along with Liberty, is one of two independents to make the ACHA tournament. It finished the season with a 28-9-1 record, with all nine of its losses coming against teams ranked inside the top ten of the ACHA's final rankings.
Some standouts facing the Bobcats for Minot State will be forward Jeremy Johnson, whose 57 points rank tied for seventh in the country, and defenseman Nick Zern, who played under Hogan and alongside three Bobcats on Team USA in this year's World University Games.
Trying to match the physicality of another strong team isn't something Ohio is a stranger to, nor is it a challenge that it shies away from.
"When we play our game, there's not really any team that can stop us," Michael Harris said. "When we're rolling on all cylinders, hitting, and shooting the puck, that's where we thrive. As long as we do that, I think we'll be looking good tomorrow."
As confident as Ohio is in its strengths, a few important things will need to look differently as the tournament progresses and the teams get tougher. The Bobcats will need to look for stronger first period play than what they have displayed of late. Ohio has been outscored 6-1 in the first period of its last three games.
The Bobcats will also look to continue to improve its power play, something it struggled mightily with in the final weeks of the regular season but has regained some prowess with in the postseason. Ohio has five power play goals in its last three games, after scoring just one power play goal in its previous six.