LYNCHBURG, Va. – It appeared as if Ohio was going to carry its come-from-behind momentum from Friday’s game through all of Saturday’s.
For the most part, the Bobcats did everything right. They were aggressive in both zones, they won puck battles and they played with confidence.
Despite doing the right things, it was the wrong things that happened at the worst times as No. 6 Ohio lost to No. 8 Liberty, 3-2, in overtime.
The Bobcats held a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period. They drew penalties and frustrated the Flames early and often. Ohio’s commanding presence started to wash away, however, just one minute and 30 seconds into the third period when Liberty tied the game.
Behind a roaring crowd, the momentum shift was evident. The same confidence that Ohio had played with started to transfer over as the clock dwindled into overtime.
“It was a tough game,” coach Sean Hogan said. “I think we ran out of gas a little bit there at the end today. It’s a tough place to play.”
The toughness was reflected both on and off the box score. Each team racked up penalty minutes, but special teams proved fatal for Ohio as it let in two Liberty power-play goals.
Inversely, the Bobcats own power play unit struggled. It didn’t convert on a single one of its chances – including a five-minute major and a five-on-three opportunity.
“We’ve got to start getting pucks to the net on the power play,” Hogan said. “I feel like we’ve been talking about this for 18 months, sometimes we do a really good job and sometimes we just like to move the puck around.”
Special teams aside, Ohio couldn’t convert on some key chances that would’ve stretched its lead.
Midway through the second period on an odd-man rush, forward Gianni Evangelisti fired a shot from the slot and the rebound went through defenseman Jake Houston’s legs. Had the puck not gone through Houston’s legs and instead went on his stick, the back of the net was wide open, a shot he rarely misses.
Another miscue, a three-on-one in the Bobcats favor was halted by a pass that was too long.
“It was a high-tempo game,” captain Cody Black said. “It was fun to play in, but they just capitalized on the mistakes that we made and we’ve got to learn to fix those mistakes.”
Those mistakes were evident in the third period shortly after Liberty’s game-tying goal. The Bobcats took three penalties, letting the Flames control the pace. And yet, the back-and-forth nature of the game reached its peak in overtime. Either team would lead odd-man rushes until finally one broke through.
Unfortunately for Ohio, it was the wrong team.
If it was going to lose, however, in overtime was the place to do it as it still gets points toward the computer ranking.
“We won and tied again against another top-ten opponent,” Hogan said. “We’re not happy with it, but we’re not disappointed in it.”