As the game clock dwindled down, Ohio was running out of time to avoid overtime against Illinois.
The score was deadlocked at 3 for nearly eight minutes until junior defenseman Tom Pokorney scored on a breakaway to give the Bobcats their second — and most important — lead of the night.
“I saw that the defenseman was going to curl up top and he would be the last guy back,” Pokorney said. “I knew I had the longer reach, so I knew if I poked it right by him, I’d be gone.”
Pokorney’s first two goals of the season couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time, as the Bobcats ended the first two periods down by a goal. The Bobcats were held scoreless in the first period for the first time since Jan. 19 against Pittsburgh.
“I don’t want to say it was because last week we played an opponent with much less skill, but that could have something to do with it,” Pokorney said. “We’ve got to make sure we always come out like we’re going to play an Illinois, a Lindenwood, one of those top teams.”
Illinois scored its first of three goals after an Ohio miscommunication in the neutral zone that left sophomore defenseman Shawn Baird in a 2-on-1 situation where Illinois ultimately got the best of him.
Ohio, down 1-0 to start the second period, received its first ounce of exterior energy as Bird Arena announcer Jake Jakuszeit told to fans to “make loud noises,” and that’s all it took for senior forward Mike Palaiscs to score his first of two power play goals.
Off the stick from junior forward Cody Black, Palasics drove the center lane and dumped the puck behind the goalie’s glove hand.
Palasics would then score again on a power play. By using speed and knowledge of his opponent, Palasics outraced defenders on the side of the rink and took the puck off of junior forward Bryan Lubin’s stick.
“Control what we can control and get pucks in net,” Palasics said. “And we’re going to get a win, which is what we did.”
Proud not only of his senior but of the team as a whole, coach Sean Hogan noted that it was a gritty win.
“Two goals senior Friday, (Pokorney) gets his first goal — I was really proud of our guys,” Hogan said. “We played a ton tonight.”
Illinois would surge back against Ohio as it scored two goals after Palasics' two.
Those would be its last two of the night, and any chances of a comeback were shattered as sophomore forward Timmy Thurnau scored a shorthanded goal to give Ohio its fifth and final goal.
“It’s good to get the sealer and ice out the game,” Thurnau said. “I didn’t see Mikey (Palasics) charging down the middle and I probably should’ve passed it to him, but I was just glad to seal it.”
Ohio will play host to Illinois again Saturday night and will honor its three seniors, Palasics, Jake Faiella and Drew Crandall.