It’s come to be almost a cliche: Jimmy Thomas is good.
Everybody seems to say it, from coach Sean Hogan, to the skaters helping Thomas defend the net.
Thomas is in the midst of his third season as Ohio’s best goalie. He set the Bobcat single-season record for shutouts a season ago.
This season, however, the shutouts haven’t been there. One came Saturday night in Ohio’s, 4-0, win over Robert Morris-Illinois in Bird Arena.
The goalie couldn’t be more relieved.
“It’s like a monkey off my back,” Thomas said. “I was cursed for a little while. But now, we’re back.”
Even if it felt like a curse to Thomas, he’s played well all season. He’s fifth in the American Collegiate Hockey Association in goals against average and save percentage. Even in the games where he has given up some goals, his play keeps Ohio right in the game, always giving it a chance to win.
“Jimmy has been the backbone of this hockey club for years,” Hogan said. “He always brings it every game.”
The team tends to give credit to Thomas for his play between the pipes. In turn, he deflects the praise back to his teammates.
The Bobcats’ penalty kill unit played especially well this weekend. It killed all eight of the Eagle’s power play chances. A lot of Thomas’ goals against have seem to come when Ohio is down a skater.
Thomas saw his team block shots in front of him. He saw everyone making sure to get back to try and get a check on a Robert Morris skater. He saw his team improve on something it has been working on all year.
An aggressive approach this weekend, both on the kill and at even-strength, helped the Bobcat skaters help their netminder.
“Our (defense) played well, our forwards back-checked well,” Thomas said. “They had a couple opportunities, which every team is going to have, but I thought our team played super well overall.”
When teams do get those opportunities, it’s on Thomas to stop them. More times than not, he does. Whether it be blocking a shot on an odd-man rush, or coming out of his crease to knock away a loose puck, Thomas has been reliable all year — and his whole career — for Ohio.
Saturday’s performance was the reward for Thomas’ play this season. He got his first shutout of the season in the first game, but had to wait almost two months for his next.
After the team hit a valley after losing five times — three in overtime — in four weeks, Thomas and Ohio can use the momentum from this weekend going forward.
“You kind of use that as inspiration,” Thomas said. “Every game you got to come in and prove that you are one of the top.”