Ohio center Matt Hartman said he was just trying not to mess up a wide-open pass at a critical moment of the third period.
Hartman pickpocketed a Liberty defenseman deep in the offensive zone and swung the puck to forward Liam Geither, who stood alone out front. One move to his forehand and Geither made the Flames pay with a go-ahead goal.
Another goal off a Hartman pass gave Ohio enough cushion to defeat Liberty 6-4 at Bird Arena on Friday night.
Ohio’s second line — Hartman, Geither and Matt Rudin — scored twice midway through the third period to break a 3-3 tie. The group failed to generate many offensive chances in the first two periods, but more than made up for it in a tight game.
“I didn’t think we had our best game, but we stuck to the grindstone in the third,” Hartman said. “We kept our heads. We played hard, and we just ended up getting rewarded.”
Unlike the Bobcats’ top line, which uses its size advantage to win one-on-one puck battles, Ohio coach Sean Hogan said the second liners get their opportunities “because they are fast.”
Hartman, for example, often ducks his 5-foot-8 frame under attempted checks and searches for Rudin or Geither to speed into the slot from one of the sideboards.
The second liners have 32 goals in 27 games. The chemistry Hartman and Geither share from playing together last season, as well as the spark Rudin provides as a newcomer, contributes to that.
“(Rudin has) got a natural ability to put the puck in the net, so it’s nice for me and Geither,” Hartman said. “We do a little more of the gritty work down low and then you can find a guy like Rudin who’s got that scoring touch.”
Ohio (22-4-1) never trailed Liberty (10-12-1), but the Bobcats’ play didn’t satisfy Hogan. He was frustrated with allowing four goals, especially because Ohio averages fewer than two goals against per game.
“It’s important to find a way to win,” Hogan said. “But we’ve got to be better than that.”
Hartman and the second line were up to the task Friday, but he knows on another night it might take a different group to carry the bulk of the responsibility.
“Usually not all four lines are going to be steaming hot,” Hartman said. “But as long as we’ve got a couple lines that are rolling, then we’re just going to be in good shape.”