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Ohio's Grant Hazel tries to control the puck against Liberty defenders at Bird Arena on Jan. 15. (FILE)

Hockey: Chances turn into goals as Ohio dominates in home opener

Joey Breslin knew it was only a matter of time. Early on, the chances were there — but the goals were not.

The chances kept coming, and finally, the goals followed as Ohio opened its 59th season with a 7-0 win over John Carroll at Bird Arena Friday night.

“We didn’t want to stress too much,” senior forward Breslin said, when Ohio’s 17 shots in the first period yielded only one goal. “We were still playing well. We were all over them.”

Ohio peppered John Carroll goalie Wesley Deacon right away, and Breslin scored on the game’s first shift. When the shot went in, the game’s trend quickly formed: Ohio was bigger, stronger and faster.

“I think we scored really early, and our guys were like, ‘Oh okay, we’re going to win by 20,’ ” Ohio coach Sean Hogan said.

The Bobcats kept pumping shots on the Blue Streaks net. A steady system of dump and chase allowed Ohio to scoop pucks in the corners and maintain possession in the offensive zone.

But greedy puck possession and high shot totals weren’t enough in the first. Ohio wasn’t winning the battles in front of the net, Hogan said. That changed after the first intermission.

Goaltender Aaron Alkema earned the shutout with just four saves.

The game broke open in the second when defenseman Grant Hazel snapped a wrist shot from the point to cap a three-goal period. He shrugged off a defender and picked the top left corner through a screen to give Ohio its first powerplay goal of the season.

On the penalty kill, the Bobcats snuffed out all five of the Blue Streaks’ chances.

The onslaught continued in the third — a period in which John Carroll failed to get a shot on net — and Ohio filled the net three more times. The Bobcats finished with a 36 shot advantage.

Defenseman Jake Houston got his first collegiate goal at the 1:50 mark of the third, a glove-side wrister, and immediately found a teammate to embrace. Houston said he was nervous coming into the game, so getting the first goal was a welcomed confidence boost.

“Definitely helps you grip the stick a little looser,” he said.

Houston, who had a goal and an assist, was one of four Bobcats making their American Collegiate Hockey Association debut. The other freshmen, all forwards, impressed in their first audition for future playing time.

Gianni Evangelisti was the team’s most energetic penalty killer. Austin Heakins had an assist and played hard enough to break his stick — twice. Brock Rumbaugh, playing on the second line with Heakins, rattled the boards with body checks.

Ohio played without one of its top forwards, senior Patrick Spellacy, who served the first half of a two-game suspension for a penalty taken in last season’s national tournament. He will also miss Saturday’s game.

Despite the roster adjustment, the Bobcats cruised to a blowout victory. The win was a relaxing way to begin the year, Breslin said.

“Especially the new guys, to get that first win,” he said. “Takes a lot of pressure off everyone, and we feel good about this upcoming season.”


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