The crowd at Bird Arena cheered as Jimmy Thomas made a quick round on the ice before returning to the locker room.
Thomas had just broken the career shutout record for Ohio hockey. Saturday’s 3-0 win against Robert Morris-Illinois (2-3-1) marked Thomas’ 17th career shutout, which had been in place for six years.
The senior goalie’s night was teetering late in the third period when the Bobcats ran into penalty issues and fought to keep momentum in their favor. Ryan Leonard had just been sent to the box on a boarding penalty, and the remaining Bobcats were scrambling to keep the Eagles from knocking one in.
Thomas, however, kept his cool. He couldn’t have made 24 saves if he wasn’t level-headed. His saves were crucial to keeping the Bobcats (6-0-0) alive in the first half when the offense was struggling to find an alley to sneak a goal in.
“We just kept getting after it and stuck to the game plan,” coach Cole Bell said. “There was never a moment on that bench where we were panicking.”
Until Timmy Thurnau found the net in the second period, the offense couldn’t keep a firm control of the puck. A constant back and forth of turnovers and missed passes prevented either the Eagles or Bobcats from gaining ground. Even with a minimal four penalty minutes in the first two periods, the lack of offensive power held the Bobcats down.
Ohio’s offense finally broke through in the third period after Andrew Sacca scored on the power play to add a buffer to Ohio’s slim margin for error. By then, the Eagles were acting bolder and gunning for the crease. The defense and Thomas held them back every time.
Thomas is glad he doesn’t have to focus on breaking the record anymore. For the rest of the season, he just wants to keep on winning as a team.
“Last year when I tied it, I definitely saw it was possible,” Thomas said. “Now that I got it, it’s like a monkey off my back. It’s a great thing to have.”
The confidence on the team after sweeping a Central States Collegiate Hockey League rival has been boosted higher. Thanks to the efforts of Thomas, Ohio swept its third team in a row and earned its sixth straight win.
Ohio will have two weeks of rest before it hosts CSCHL rival Iowa State Oct. 25-26. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 p.m.