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"Matthew Hartman keeping his eye on the puck in tonight's shoot-out win." (CHRIS PENWELL| FOR THE POST)

Hockey: Perfect shootout and re-energetized offense lead to Ohio's sweep of UM-Dearborn

The differences between Ohio’s wins against University of Michigan-Dearborn on Friday and Saturday were an edge-of-the-seat shootout and a screaming, enthusiastic “fan of the game.”

The Bobcats needed a third-period push and a perfect shootout to win Friday, 3-2 (SO), before cruising to an 8-1 win on Saturday — with an energetic, somersaulting fan leading cheers after every goal — to sweep the weekend at Bird Arena.

Freshman goalie Jimmy Thomas made 16 saves (plus one in the shootout) in his team-high ninth start on Friday to earn the win. Aaron Alkema, a senior goalie, won for the third time in four starts on Saturday with 17 saves.

Powerplay powers back

For nearly 50 minutes on Friday, Ohio was held scoreless and looked as if it would be shut out for the first time since Nov. 20, 2015. A contributing factor to the goal drought was the team’s failure on the powerplay.

The Bobcats went 0-for-6 on the man advantage Friday. They hit a post and took plenty of shots, but they won very few battles to second-chance pucks in front of the net.

Saturday was different. Ohio popped three powerplay goals on nine chances. Ohio coach Sean Hogan said the team had talked about improving its entry into UM-Dearborn’s zone and using the middle of the ice. The team watched video and improved.

“Just getting pucks to the net and finishing our chances was the big difference,” defenseman Jake Houston said.

Houston leads the Bobcats’ top powerplay unit from the blue line, where he either passes the puck to an open man, shoots it on net or demands it by repeatedly tapping his stick on the ice.

Hogan said Houston is calm in the way he handles being the player atop the powerplay formation and likened him to a punt returner in football. Houston said he’s used to running the powerplay from experience on previous teams, and he relishes the opportunity.

“Whenever I get the chance on (the powerplay), I gotta produce,” he said. “Or I may get taken off it.”

Sharp shooters

There’s no other way to say it. Forwards Gianni Evangelisti and Matt Rudin have been fantastic for Ohio so far this season.

They play on different lines — Rudin is a second-line winger and Evangelisti centers the third line — but it might be time for Hogan to rethink that setup.

Everyone had a chance to see the potential of pairing Ohio’s top-two scorers (Evangelisti has 21 points and Rudin has 16 points in 14 games) together when Hogan sent them out for a penalty kill Saturday.

Evangelisti went around the UM-Dearborn net and stole the puck from a Wolverine defenseman, then flung it to Rudin, who was streaking down the slot. Rudin picked a corner and buried a shorthanded goal.

Hogan has said it is valuable to have Evangelisti on the team’s third line because he creates offense for that group. But Hogan is now considering giving Evangelisti an increased role, especially with Rudin.

“They’ll kill (penalties) together a lot,” Hogan said. “There might be some powerplay opportunities. And whether or not they’re going to play five-on-five (together), we’ll see what happens.”

@JordanHorrobin

jh950614@ohio.edu

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