Ohio’s started to play its best hockey as of late. With just one regular season series left and postseason tournaments on the horizon, it couldn’t have picked a better time to play at the level it has been.
In the last three weeks, the Bobcats have compiled a 5-0-1 record against some of the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s best talent, such as Syracuse, Illinois and Iowa State.
How they got that record wasn’t by accident.
Goalie Jimmy Thomas thought the Bobcats’ sweep over Syracuse on Feb.1-2 was a turning point in how the team planned to use those wins as motivation to finish the season out strong. While it still has one regular season series prior to postseason tournaments remaining, Ohio’s proved it has found its footing.
“I really do feel like that was our turning point,” Thomas said. “We’re treading in the right direction and like I said last time, you only peak once a season so hopefully we’re on our up-slope toward peaking.”
This is the right time for the Bobcats to find their upward slope. Teams that find success late in the regular season tend to carry that momentum into postseason play. In Ohio’s case, as a perennial ACHA program, league and national titles aren’t just hoped for – they’re expected.
In order to reach those heights, it’s going to have to maintain what it’s been doing, which is winning in all facets of the game.
In its five wins, Ohio was productive in areas where it had previously struggled: finding ways to score within its systems, getting back on defense and having an aggressive power play.
With a revamped focus, Ohio has scored 17 goals in its run. It has only allowed five goals in that span and posted three shutouts.
It’s that focus that’s going to propel the Bobcats on its trajected course.
“We’ve got to keep our focus,” Thomas said. “We’ve got Kent State coming up and league playoffs after that.”
Ohio’s ability to focus will be tested this week as it’s on a bye-week. Bye-weeks lend themselves to more relaxed skates, but they also lend themselves to more rehab, more workouts and overall let the toll of a nearly six-month season creep out of the pads for a bit.
“It’s nice to let the body rest and get some time to yourself,” Thomas said. “It’s nice to just regroup and step away, and then come back next week to practice harder.”
Thomas said the Bobcats’ practice on Tuesday was a “fun” practice. Mostly filled with competitions, it was a step away from the traditional run-through of their various systems.
Unlike last season, where it had breaks at Thanksgiving and the semester’s end, Ohio built in two bye-weeks just to have gaps in the long season. But without the breaks, the Bobcats closed out the season at 3-1-1 a year ago.
With a chance to notch two more wins under their belt and close out the season at 20 wins for the fifth consecutive season, it would be one of their highest highs of the season.
With a chance to win two more games and finish the season at 20 wins for the fifth consecutive season, Ohio still has more to play for entering the final weeks of the season.