Once again, the Bobcats are on the rise. A week ago, the American Collegiate Hockey Association ranked Ohio at No. 4 – this week it climbed up one spot to No. 3.
While it’s well-earned, the Bobcats haven’t been tested. Not really anyway.
Ohio (6-0) has breezed its way through the first three weekends. It has outscored opponents 58-8, its special teams have hit a groove and goalie play has been elite.
This is all well and true.But the Bobcats haven’t, however, truly played anyone with national merit.
That changes this weekend as it takes the road to Central States Collegiate Hockey League rival No. 10 Iowa State.
As Ohio begins playing teams of more national standing, here are three things to watch ahead of its first league series.
Thomas and the defense
Jimmy Thomas was often Ohio’s rock and saving grace during league games, and there’s potential for that to happen once again.
The junior goalie posted a 9-7 record against the other CSCHL teams a year ago. With two years of experience underneath his belt and a head full of confidence, Thomas again will be a crutch for the Bobcats.
A major part of Thomas’ success, however, are the defensemen in front of him. Led by alternate captain Grant Hazel, the defense has been one of Ohio’s most consistent pieces in just a short frame sample.
After its Saturday win against Eastern Michigan, senior Cody Black said Ohio has learned to be a goal scoring team. The aforementioned 58 goals didn’t happen just on chance goals. Not all of them, anyway.
Consistently, the Bobcats’ best line has been Black’s. With him at the center position and Tyler Harkins and Matt Rudin at the wings, that line has generated much of Ohio’s offensive opportunities. The three have combined for 34 points and haven’t shown signs of stopping.
Along with Black’s line, Gianni Evangelisti has quickly found his niche once again. The junior forward in just four games has five goals and seven assists. With league play coming up, the production potentially will increase.
Taking penalties early in the season was a problem for the Bobcats a year ago. This year, not so much. Of their 24-man roster, just five of the skaters have double-digit penalty minutes. A part in the lack of penalties could be that the team is mostly comprised of juniors and seniors. With a mature roster, it’s easier to keep heads calm. Another reason why is the fact that Ohio hasn’t been in close games where emotions run high.
Austin Heakins once again will be a scratch for the Bobcats because of an on-going lower-body injury. There’s no current update on the junior forward’s status.
Kyle Craddick has been issued a one-game suspension for fighting in Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan. The junior forward will be able to dress in Saturday’s game at Iowa State.