Ohio needed a sweep.
It was playing the No. 4 Iowa State. Coach Sean Hogan noted it toward the end of Thursday’s practice. The team knew it coming in.
The Bobcats were sitting at No. 5. They knew the series against the Cyclones was going to be huge, because the top-four teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association receive first-round byes.
That eases some of the grind that is the ACHA Tournament, where without the bye, the Bobcats would have to play five games in six days. And, for a team currently dealing with an injury bug, that couldn’t come at a better time.
“It’s huge deal for us,” Hogan said of the sweep and the potential bye. “Get that day off. Instead of playing four days in a row, playing one then three days in a row.”
Coming into Friday’s game, Ohio was excited for the chance to face a team ranked higher than it, and a chance to push itself toward a national tournament bye. Hogan had mentioned that Thursday’s practice wasn’t great, even saying it was probably the worst practice of the season.
Hogan knew, however, that stuff like that doesn’t carry over often. He said that the bad practice was coming from a lack of effort and poor body language. He was sure to mention that it is a tough time academically for the team, with a large amount of work piling up, along with a lot of bumps and bruises.
When it came to the game Friday, a 2-1 win, the team didn’t play its best, but still pulled out a victory.
“It doesn’t matter, it’s a 2-1 win,” Hogan said.
That win also boosted the Bobcats. They played strong defense all weekend, making only one big mistake that led to an Iowa State goal. Knowing it could win even though it didn’t play its best, gave Ohio some confidence.
“We were very excited,” goalie Jimmy Thomas said. “We love that first weekend off at nationals.”
As the team came into the locker room after that game, there was a sense of relief. Tyler Harkins said that a win’s a win, echoing what his coach would say a few minutes later.
That mood was a lot more charged after Saturday’s 2-0 win. The whole team was fired up, yelling about their sweep over a Central States Collegiate Hockey League opponent. Their chants could be heard — as they always are after a sweep — through the locker room doors.
Getting a sweep when it needed it the most was what Ohio needed. Through the injuries to its captain, Cody Black, and two of its top forwards, Gianni Evangelisti and Austin Heakins to the hope for a bye in the ACHA Tournament, Ohio had one of its most successful weekends — maybe not on the scoreboard, but in their minds — at the biggest time.
And that is going to propel Ohio forward as the postseason creeps closer.