Shawn Baird slipped on the ice, right in front of the goal. Often not the best thing while on a penalty kill.
The slip ended up helping Ohio, as the Iowa State shot deflected off Baird’s hip. Later on his shift during the kill, he deflected another Cyclone shot.
Baird’s play on that first period penalty kill, along with his play the rest of the night, helped Ohio win 2-0 over Iowa State on Saturday night in Bird Arena. The Bobcats’ win meant a sweep of the No. 4 team in the country, and Baird, and the rest of the defense’s performance had a lot to do with that.
“Baird was exceptional,” coach Sean Hogan said. “I thought he did a good job playing his physical brand of hockey.”
That physical style of hockey that Baird plays has been complimented this season by his blue line partner, Scott Bagby. But, Ohio was struck with injuries, with forwards Cody Black, Austin Heakins and Gianni Evangelisti scratched from Saturday’s game.
With that, Hogan switched some things up. Tom Pokorney played as a forward. Bagby was paired with Pokorney’s defensive partner, Grant Hazel. Alex Singley dropped back to defense and was paired with Baird.
It was Singley’s second time playing defense as a Bobcat. He was glad to be paired with Baird.
“He’s a great defensive defenseman,” Singley said of Baird.
Baird often doesn’t find himself on the stat sheet, but leaves his mark on the game in other ways. Playing a good recovery defense, finding opposing skaters on the boards, and deflecting shots like he did during that first period penalty kill are his way of leaving an impact on the game. Those are the kind of things that pumps a team up, and propels them forward. The rest of the Bobcats are no exception to that when it comes to Baird’s play.
“I love when he goes and blows someone up, and gets the crowd in it,” Singley said.
The Baird has only recorded nine points this year, but again, that’s not what his game is about. It’s about getting his team and the crowd into the game. It’s also about protecting his goalie, Jimmy Thomas from having to stop some shots. Baird’s blocks and deflects throughout the game helped Thomas earn a shutout, which tied him for the Ohio single season and all-time records.
Baird will go find a puck handler, and his defensive partner will fill in the gap. There’s a clear trust with whoever he’s paired with to give when he goes, and go when Baird gives.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” Singley said. “It’s nerve-wracking to go out there when it’s something I’ve never really done before.”
The performance of Baird with a new defensive partner took a weight off a lot of Bobcat shoulders. Sitting at No. 5 coming into the weekend against No. 4 Iowa State, Ohio knew it was playing some of the biggest games of its season. It would be competing for a bye in the American Collegiate Hockey Association tournament. The sweep should propel Ohio to the third or fourth spot in the national rankings.
“It’s a huge deal for us, to get that day off,” Hogan said.