Shot after shot, Jimmy Thomas was ready.
Puck into the glove. Puck off the blocker. Puck deflecting off the stick.
Iowa State peppered him, but he was ready.
The puck didn’t find the net for all but one of the 26 shots Thomas saw Friday night. That was all the difference in Ohio’s 2-1 win over the Cyclones in Bird Arena.
“League games are always close,” Thomas said. “Iowa State is a great team, they’re ranked ahead of us right now, so you knew it was going to be a battle coming in.”
As the game wore on, Ohio appeared as if it was going to hang on. It wasn’t playing its best game, but it was keeping the puck away from Thomas.
Five minutes into the third period, Matt Rudin checked an Iowa State skater into the boards behind his own net, causing a whistle to blow. At first, it was ruled a two-minute minor, then changed to a five-minute major.
Ohio was going to be down a skater. While the Bobcats played their best hockey of the night the five minutes following Rudin’s penalty, there was still chances.
Nick Grose attempted to clear the puck out of the defensive zone, but his clearance was deflected by an Iowa State skater, who then had a clear shot on Thomas. He proceeded to stop two shots before he was able to freeze the puck, giving not only him, but Ohio a chance to breathe.
And the same thing would happen as time ticked away, with the Bobcats clutching to their one goal lead. They backed into a defensive shell as just seconds appeared on the scoreboard, and the Cyclones pulled their goalie. Iowa State has an extra skater, and Thomas continued his dominant performance as the final horned sound.
The sign of relief after a third period where he faced 13 shots — doubling Iowa State’s total for the game — was on his face as he trudged into the locker room, waiting for his named to be called as one of the stars of the game.
“I feel great,” Thomas said. “I think our team played great tonight.”
Ohio played a tough, gritty game, but it was enough to pull out a victory in a Central States Collegiate Hockey League game. It was also a game that was huge for the Bobcats. They’re ranked fifth in the country, the Cyclones are fourth. The two teams are fighting for the last bye for the first round of the American Collegiate Hockey Association tournament.
“We love the first weekend off at nationals,” Thomas said.
With the excitement of a first win over a team ranked above them, the Bobcats came into the locker room after Thomas were sure to congratulate — and maybe thank — their goalie’s performance not just Friday, but many other games, propelled Ohio to a victory.
Thomas has been on a roll of late. He’s had three shutouts in the 2019 portion of Ohio’s schedule. One more and he ties both the single season record — he tied this last season — and the program’s all-time record. He was one defensive zone turnover from doing that Friday.
It’s not just his teammates that recognize how important he is, his coach does too.
“Jimmy has been unbelievable the past three, four games,” coach Sean Hogan said.