Sean Hogan stood with slouched shoulders outside of the locker room in Bird Arena. He tried to keep his head held up high, but he simply couldn’t. It was hard for him to find any reason to be happy after No. 4 Ohio’s 3-2 loss to No. 24 Kent State on Friday night.
“It was embarrassing,” he said. “There’s two embarrassing losses in my career. It’s this one and when we lost to West Virginia my first year (at Ohio).”
From the opening puck drop to the final whistle, the Bobcats were out of it. The absence of their stars Gianni Evangelisti and Jake Houston was evident as they couldn’t set up an efficient power play.
The absence of captain Cody Black was evident as there were moments in the game when leadership and experience were needed, but wasn’t delivered.
Even the absence of Bird Arena’s public announcer was evident as the seemingly lifeless crowd matched the energy of its team.
“We’re too good for that,” Hogan said. “The seniors are too good to be sent out that way. It’s just disappointing.”
Ohio is too good for that, too. Before Friday’s game, it had only lost in regulation just three times this season – to No. 1 Lindenwood, then No. 10 Iowa State and No. 12 Illinois.
Those losses were to perennial American Collegiate Hockey Association programs. They weren’t to up-and-coming programs in which Ohio should’ve scored an absurd amount of goals.
Instead, it played out of its shell.
It didn’t win the puck battles. It didn’t win the rebounds. It didn’t communicate.
The Bobcats had their moments. Junior winger Tyler Harkins netted a goal to tie the game at one in the first period. Sophomore winger Timmy Thurnau gave them some momentum after he scored midway through the third.
But the momentum and the goals stopped.
Players felt that everything they had worked for this season was washed away by this loss. It’s the first time since Dec. 7, 2018, where Ohio had earned at least one computer point in the national polls. Now, there’s a chance Ohio could lose its coveted top-4 ranking, so coveted because the top four teams earn a bye in the national tournament.
It’s not a complete collapse. The train isn’t derailed, the season isn’t over. In a game which seemingly meant nothing, now means everything.
“They know how we’re supposed to play and that’s not it,” Hogan said. “That’s not at all how we teach them.”
As he walked out of the arena still in a state of shock, Hogan, with his slouched shoulders, managed to find a way to hold his head up. After all, there is another opportunity for the Bobcats to play how they’re supposed to.
But after Friday’s performance, the question is will they.