Ohio finished the regular season in a not-so-comfortable manner, but nonetheless, it earned a first-round bye in the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament with the No. 4 seed. After they played in 29 of its 32 scheduled games, the Bobcats head into postseason play at 19-4-6.

A season that’s spanned from mid-September to late-March, Post beat writers Matt Parker and Trevor Colgan examine some of their highlights from the season and lay out predictions ahead of postseason play.

Best Game

TC: Ohio 4, Illinois 3 — Dec. 8

Ohio’s struggle this season has been overtime games. Out of the seven it’s played, it’s lost six. 

The one win came in the last game of Fall Semester, against Illinois. Winning a Central States Collegiate Hockey League game before a month off was big for the confidence of the team. To do it in overtime — to get the overtime monkey off the Bobcats’ proverbial back — was even bigger.

Matt Rudin deflected in the goal off his helmet, which made the game even weirder — better — and made the overtime feel just a bit better.

MP: Ohio 2, Iowa State 0 — Feb. 16

The win that gave then-No. 5 Ohio the sweep over then-No. 4 Iowa State was a win that proved to me it has what it takes to make a deep run in the ACHA Tournament —  and it did so with a shuffled roster.

The Bobcats moved typical defenseman Tom Pokorney as a winger and typical forward Alex Singley as a defenseman because of the lack of depth at both spots at the time. Pokorney, along with linemates Kyle Craddick and Gabe Lampron, scored the game winner for Ohio.

In such a long season, coach Sean Hogan has been known to switch things around —  sometimes by choice, sometimes by force — and in this instance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see if Hogan keeps Pokorney on the offensive side of things once players start to recover from injury.  

Worst Game

TC: Kent State 3, Ohio 2 — March 1

Hogan said after the game it was one of the two most embarrassing losses in his career. Ohio was ranked No. 4, and Kent State was ranked No. 24. Ohio should have won big, especially during senior weekend. 

The Bobcats didn’t play their game, they racked up a lot of shots, but a lot of them were not quality shots. They were missing key skaters, and it showed. The game was a tough one all around.

MP: Kent State 3, Ohio 2 —  March 1

I’m going to have to agree with Trevor on this one. It was tough to put into words just how poorly Ohio played in this game. 

A home loss at Bird Arena to a non-league opponent is a rarity for the Bobcats, however, they made up for it the next night as they won 9-2 on senior night.

Best Moment

TC: Heakins’ two-point return — Nov. 30

Austin Heakins assisted on two goals in his first game back in two months. He played the season’s opening weekend against John Carroll. After that, he was out with a lower leg injury. 

The thing is, Heakins sat out for the majority of last season due to personal reasons. He played two games, and then had to sit and watch from the sidelines. And in his first game back, Heakins made a hit right after the opening puck drop, and his two assists came on the game-winning goal and the sealing goal.

MP: Rudin’s hat trick —  March 2

Senior winger Matt Rudin achieved a hat trick in his final game at Bird Arena when Ohio defeated Kent State 9-2.

The night prior, Ohio was stunned by Kent State in a 3-2 loss, but Rudin and the rest of Ohio used that loss as motivation for Saturday’s game. Rudin has been a perennial player for the Bobcats since the 2015-16 season when he joined as a freshman. He’s appeared in well over 100 games and has a knack for setting net-front screens, which is often where he scores from.

To end a storied career at Bird on a hat trick is something I’m sure Rudin won’t soon forget. 

Biggest surprise

TC: Drew Magyar 

The freshman was only scratched from two games as he found himself consistent ice time throughout the season. He only notched 11 points, but his stick skills and ability to find open ice showed potential for Magyar to be a top-six forward for years to come in a Bobcat sweater. 

His biggest moment came when he scored Ohio’s second goal Saturday against Kent State. Rudin scored a hat trick in the game, and was sure to point out Magyar and fellow freshman Ryan Higgins’ early contributions to the Bobcats’ 9-2 win on senior night.

MP: Jackson Chilberg

Sitting behind on the country’s best Jimmy Thomas can be difficult, but Jackson Chilberg sent out onto the ice, he did exactly what he was supposed to. In his one and only start this season, Chilberg saved 14 of 15 shots against Eastern Michigan in an 8-1 win for Ohio.

Though it’s not the largest sample size, Chilberg posted a .86 goals against average and a .947 save percentage as he appeared in two games for the Bobcats this season.

While he’ll have to sit behind Thomas for one more season, the goalie competition between Chilberg and fellow sophomore Mason Koster will be something to watch as time goes on.

Postseason prediction

TC: CSCHL games are always tough, so the games in the league tournament will be tight, but the No. 1 team in the country, Lindenwood, is clearly the best team. The Lions should win easily. 

Ohio is set to play Iowa State, and those teams have played close games all season. Ohio has won three of the four games, though. Iowa State might get one back in the league tournament.

Prediction: Ohio falls in the semifinal round. 

On the national stage, Ohio might grab a few more wins. If it plays the way it should, the Bobcats could raise a banner, which is what Hogan said is important: hanging a banner in the Bird Arena rafters. If Ohio plays to its full potential, that’s possible. 

I don’t think that Ohio will be able to get past some of the top teams, like Adrian, who would likely be the semi-final round opponent.

Prediction: Ohio loses in the semifinals.

MP: Ohio will have its hands full once it begins postseason play as it travels to Wentzville, Missouri, for the CSCHL Tournament. The No. 2 seed in the tournament, Ohio will face off against No. 3 seed Iowa State. Ohio took the season series as it won three out of the four games. The Bobcats’ sweep over the Cyclones put them at the No. 4 seed in the national tournament and because of that, I’d expect the Cyclones to defeat the Bobcats in the first round.

Prediction: Ohio loses in the semifinals.

The national picture is where it gets fun. Ohio plays the winner of No. 13 UNLV and No. 20 Robert Morris-Pennsylvania. Last season, the Bobcats defeated the Rebels in overtime, but ultimately lost to Illinois in the quarterfinal. I expect Ohio to advance past either of its first round opponents.

If it wins its first game, it will then go on to play the winner of No. 5 Iowa State and No. 12 Stony Brook. I’ll have Iowa State winning its first round game and to face Ohio for the sixth time this season. Since Iowa State wins in the CSCHL Tournament, I’ll give Ohio the pass on the national stage.

This puts us at the national semi-finals. Ohio could play a team from as high as No. 3 Adrian, to as low as No. 19 Buffalo. For the sake of clarity, let’s put the quarterfinal game between defending national champions Adrian and No. 11 Illinois. Despite its first-round bye, this is where I think Ohio falls. Illinois lost to Adrian in last year’s national championship and Adrian will look to repeat as champions.

Prediction: Ohio loses in the semifinals.

@trevor_colgan

tc648714@ohio.edu

@mparker_5

mp109115@ohio.edu

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