LYNCHBURG, Va. — The momentum looked like it was going to swing Ohio’s way.
In a tie game, Matt Rudin had been pinned against the LaHaye Ice Center board. Liberty’s Josh Bergen was called for a five-minute major hit from behind.
Ohio seemed to be getting its rhythm back. The Bobcats had taken a lead in Saturday’s second period, but gave it up early in the third period.
The Bobcats were now going to have five minutes with a man-advantage. They didn’t convert. Regulation ended with the scored tied, and Ohio ended the game losing 3-2 in overtime.
The missed chance after the five-minute major was one of five power plays the Bobcats didn’t score on. The Flames had a 40 percent success rate.
“We’ve got to start getting pucks in on the power play,” coach Sean Hogan said. “I feel like we’ve been talking about this for 18 months.”
Even though the game counts as a tie in the American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings, Hogan’s frustration was evident. The continued struggles on the power play was likely a factor in that.
Ohio has a 26.79 percent success rate with a man-advantage this year. It was successful on 21.48 percent of power plays last season.
The Bobcats’ chances were there. They retained possession through most of their power play opportunities. They played their puck-possession game and got shots on net. They had skaters with chances to score off a deflection. Those didn’t happen on Saturday.
“We were getting shots off, they were just blocking them,” Cody Black said. “You got to give credit to them, they were blocking shots left and right.”
That was extremely evident on the Bobcats’ five-on-three chance. Even though Bryan Lubin scored just after the two-man advantage ended, a goal in that situation would have swung the momentum even more in the favor of the Bobcats.
“As a coach, it’s difficult to watch,” Hogan said. “We’re creating chances, then we’re bypassing some shots. We’re making the right pass, then bobbling the puck”
Both of Liberty’s special team units played well. Two of the Flames’ three goals came on the power play. Their penalty kill unit was killing all of the Bobcats’ chances.
Ohio knows it needs to play better on the power play, but sometimes it’s about the way the puck bounces. Surely the penalty kill unit isn’t used to giving up that many goals while on the ice. It has an 88.41 percent success rate this year.
“it’s a game of bounces,” Black said. “The puck in front of the net, sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Bounces or not, special teams are going to have to improve in the Bobcats’ next series when they welcome No. 1 Lindenwood to Bird Arena. Lindenwood is fresh off a 15-0 win over Arkansas.
Ohio knows it’s going to have to play its best hockey.
“This is going to be a week where we really have to prepare,” Hogan said.