Seniors were celebrated Saturday night for their established careers as members of the Bobcats, but it was the freshman class who got the party started.
Ohio lost to Kent State the night before, on March 1. Its seniors were vocal in the locker room after the loss, and the message resonated within the rest of the team.
The Bobcats’ 9-2 win, while probable, might not had been possible if it weren’t for their underclassmen. Ryan Higgins, Drew Magyar and Zach Frank each scored a goal. Magyar and Frank, along with Shawn Baird, also earned assists in Saturday’s game.
“We obviously were all upset about the night before,” Higgins said. “Me and (Magyar) love playing with each other, and we knew that probably could get the ball rolling out there.”
And they did get the ball rolling.
Higgins skated from the neutral zone into the offensive zone and tried to send the puck through Kent State’s goalie’s legs. Higgins’ shot was blocked, but he was able to get his rebound and on a backhanded shot he scored the first goal of the game.
Magyar, with impressive stick skill, faked to the right, pulled his stick late to the left and sent the puck into the top left corner of the goal.
It took two freshmen to get the Bobcats into the game. Following Magyar’s goal, four of Ohio’s six-man graduating class scored goals, including a Matt Rudin hat trick.
Not only did Ohio’s freshmen want to be active in the game, they needed to be. The team was without six skaters stemming from injuries and inactive.
“It helped me really see how the game goes,” Higgins said on having more ice time than usual. “Obviously when everyone is here, I don’t get the ice time that I want, but I know that I’ll get that eventually as time goes on.”
With the departure of six seniors, Higgins and Magyar have the opportunity to earn more ice time in their sophomore seasons. Along with seniors leaving, coach Sean Hogan is also leaving at the end of the season and a new coach can be all the difference maker for any program.
While the underclassmen have to wait until September to see where they stand for the 2019-20 season, there are still opportunities for them to shine. Ohio still has to play in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament as well as the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championships in the coming weeks.
“Everybody has their own game they need to play, and I need to play mine,” Higgins said. “I know that every time I get on the ice, I’m not going to get that many points, but I can just be a pest and make a difference.”
As the seniors celebrated their final game in Bird, Higgins and the underclassmen were aware that they were just getting started.