Ohio players with hundreds of career goals and over one hundred wins to their names played their final game at Bird Arena on Saturday night.
It was senior night, a celebration of 10 Bobcats who comprise the winning foundation of another top-five nationally ranked team that has plenty of hope ahead of the national tournament in mid-March.
But on this night, they couldn’t buy a goal.
Not to fulfill the canned everyone-goes-home-happy narrative for the final game of the regular season. Not to please the moms and dads in the stands proudly watching their sons at Bird Arena for the final time. Not to even the score with Iowa State, who won 1-0 after coming from behind on Friday to beat the Bobcats, 3-2.
“I feel bad for the seniors because they worked hard for it,” Ohio coach Sean Hogan said. “They worked hard. It wasn’t a lack of effort tonight. They did everything they could.”
This wasn’t the senior night Ohio deserved. The 10 seniors, who compiled a 111-30-12 record in four seasons, should have gone out on a winning note.
They probably would’ve, too, against a mediocre Western Michigan team that was supposed to come to Ohio on March 3-4 to close the season. Instead, those games were canceled and the Bobcats wrapped up their season against Iowa State, last year’s national runner-up.
At times, Ohio and Iowa State played a suffocating brand of hockey. Both teams chopped and hacked at a bouncing puck that didn’t stay in anyone’s possession for too long.
Ohio had chances though, particularly in the second period.
The Bobcats hit the crossbar, squandered a power play chance and maintained even strength pressure in the Cyclones’ end for most of the period’s final eight minutes. Ohio had 30 shots on the night. Iowa State’s Derek Moser saved them all.
Moser, who stopped 33 shots in Friday’s win, got all the help he needed four and a half minutes into Saturday’s game when forward Jon Severson roofed a wrist shot past the glove of Ohio goalie Aaron Alkema.
With their regular season now over and the Central States Collegiate Hockey League playoffs up next week, the Bobcats’ 1-0 loss looks like a wake-up call. Something for the team to build from and fuel a fire.
But Hogan thought the 5-4 loss to Illinois two Fridays ago, in which Ohio had an early 2-0 lead, would be the wake-up call. Then he thought the 3-2 loss this past Friday, in which Ohio also held an early two-goal lead, would be enough to wake the team up.
Bottom line, Ohio should be awake already.
They looked the part Saturday, but no results followed. The Bobcats scored just two goals the past two games, they’ve lost three of their past four and they’re entering the division tournament as a three-seed when one regulation win this weekend would’ve clinched the top spot.
Ohio has a week of practice to work out some frustration before playoffs begin. In the meantime, senior night softened the blow of the team’s unpleasant reality as Saturday’s loss took a back seat to the unique moment.
“When you’re sitting on the bench there as a freshman, you don’t realize how fast it’s going to come up on you,” fifth-year senior forward Liam Geither said. “You sit there, and you hug the guys after they give their flowers to their mom. Then just like that, you’re out there giving flowers to your mom, and you’re looking for the next chapter of your life.”