LYNCHBURG, Va. — Tom Pokorney waved his arms up and down to pump up the crowd as he skated off the LaHaye Ice Center ice Friday.
He had reason to be excited, as he did when he had his hands in the air when he embraced Gianni Evangelisti three minutes before.
Pokorney had deflected the puck into the net with 2:47 left in the game. It was the game-winning goal in Ohio’s 3-2 win over Liberty. He didn’t get credit on the stat sheet, Evangelisti did. It was off his shot that the deflection went in.
“I got it,” Pokorney said, smiling.
The goal came at the end of Ohio’s barnstorming comeback in the third period. The Bobcats were down two goals heading into the period. In coach Sean Hogan’s eyes, Ohio had played some of its worst hockey this season at that point.
Ohio knew if it scored in the first five minutes of the third, it would have a chance.The Bobcats knew they were more skilled than Liberty, they just needed to show it. They got their early goal, off the stick of Kyle Craddick.
Craddick got the puck in front of the net, off a pass from Timmy Thurnau, and slotted it past Liberty’s goalie for Ohio’s first goal of the game — the first of the Bobcats’ comeback.
“That helps all of the momentum swing our way,” Pokorney said. “We just took with it and ran with it from there.”
The Bobcats, even though they still trailed by a goal, felt in control for the rest of the game.
“I think we played the entire third entirely in their end,” Hogan said.
Keeping the puck in the offensive zone forced Liberty into committing penalties. The Bobcats had two power play chances in the period. They converted on one; Jake Houston got the game-tying goal.
Houston found himself in front of the net, and the puck squirted away. Houston scored to equal the score. It was the second game in a row Houston tied the game in the third period, he had a slap shot goal last Saturday against No. 4 Davenport.
Seven minutes later, Pokorney’s deflection concluded the comeback. Ohio’s defense held the rest of the way, even as Liberty brought an extra skater.
“Good teams find ways to win hockey games,” Houston said. “We went out there in the third, started working a little harder, started making our hits.”
And that’s what this team would consider itself: A good team. Ohio moved up to No. 6 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings this week, after it won and tied with Davenport. The Bobcats were confident they were the better team then, it seems like they still believe that now.
At this point, it’s about getting off to a faster starts. Not being — as Hogan put it — lethargically early in games. But, at least Ohio knows it can battle back.
“You just got to let them play their game,” Hogan said. “Eventually, they did.”