In its first road series since mid-November, No. 2 Ohio took a series sweep over Rutgers University this past weekend at Codey Arena in West Orange, New Jersey. The Bobcats beat the Scarlet Knights 8-5 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday.
Ohio (21-4-1) is now riding a five-game winning streak, which is its third longest of the season. The Bobcats have scored 28 goals in the last five games.
Ohio sped to a 2-0 lead in the first minute and a half of Friday’s game. But after such a fast beginning, the Bobcats sat back and allowed the Scarlet Knights to hang around.
“That (lead) was actually probably not the best thing for us,” Ohio coach Sean Hogan said. “Because after that … we played real slow the rest of the game.”
With freshman Jimmy Thomas in net for Ohio, Rutgers chipped away and made it 2-1. Then, when Ohio stretched the lead to 5-1, Rutgers came back with two more goals before the Bobcats pulled away for good.
Scoring early and often gave the Bobcats a desire to play more offensively than usual. Players wanted to make plays in 1-on-1 situations and try to get on the stat sheet, Hogan said.
As a result, Ohio left itself vulnerable defensively. Thomas, making his first start since Dec. 9, allowed five goals for the second-straight appearance.
Hogan didn’t blame his young goalie and instead cited Rutgers’s wide-open opportunities as the reason for the high goal total.
“The game was never really in doubt,” Hogan said. “But we were just giving up really weird chances.”
In Saturday afternoon’s film session, Hogan spoke about something he wanted to see from his players that had lacked in Friday’s win — playing with pride and energy.
“We played lazily (on Friday),” he said. “And they knew it. We saw (footage) of us just not making the extra effort that we typically do on pucks.”
Senior Aaron Alkema, who has given up just three goals in his past four starts (•all wins), was Ohio’s goalie on Saturday. Hogan said Alkema has been playing well lately, but both Thomas and Alkema will get their opportunities in the season’s final games to determine the postseason starter.
The Bobcats made some injury-related adjustments, too. Top line forward Austin Heakins and veteran defenseman Jake Faiella both missed Saturday’s game. Sophomore forward Cody Black replaced Heakins on the top line and scored a goal.
Despite a 6-1 final score, Ohio was up just 2-1 entering the third period. Hogan said it took his team until the final period of the weekend to play physical and puck-hungry. The result was four goals and a comfortable win.
“As a coach, you want them to play like that all weekend,” Hogan said. “We scored 10 goals last Saturday (against Delaware), we scored eight (Friday), six (Saturday). You can’t be too mad about that.”