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Ohio forward Tyler Harkins (22) fires a puck on net during the first period of the Bobcats game against Robert-Morris Illinois on Friday, October 11, 2019, at Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio. The Bobcats won 4-3 in a shootout. (FILE)

Hockey: Ohio is close to being on top despite losing streak

The Bobcats are close to being one of the top teams in the nation, and the past couple series have shown what they need to do to get there.

Ohio is on a five-game losing streak, the longest streak of its kind since the 2011-12 season. The Bobcats, however, have at least been competitive in the majority of their games.

Their 1-2-3 record in their last three series is a testament to their ability to keep things close until the final whistle. Even in the 8-2 beat down in game one of the Liberty series, Ohio had a manageable two-goal deficit going into the third. 

Ohio has been playing top-level opponents during this stretch. Iowa State was ranked seventh, and Michigan-Dearborn was ranked second when they visited Athens. When the Bobcats faced Liberty this past weekend, the Flames were ranked eighth.

Luckily for Ohio, it hasn’t even reached the halfway point of its season thus leaving ample time for solutions to the problems at hand.

Time can fix it 

One of the problems that will come with time, is freshman production. The Bobcats have 11 freshmen this season – over a third of the roster. The Bobcats needed the freshmen to show up big on the score sheet and only three have.

Andrew Sacca, Andrew Wells and J.T. Schimizzi are the three freshmen that have a point in the last three series. Wells is the only freshman that has found the back of the net, and he has done so twice. 

"We do have a young team, and we are still trying to figure out how to win a hockey game in college," coach Cole Bell said. "Young guys doing things they got away with at other levels."

Another thing that time can correct is getting more acclimated to the new system. Bell thinks the team needs its comfort level within the system. The majority of shifts he feels like that's happened. However, sometimes, players start to second guess themselves instead of it being second nature.

Stop the self-inflicted woes

One of the issues that Ohio can fix quickly are the self-inflicted ones. While they can be fixed quickly, it also has to come with attention to detail. The Bobcats got away with those mistakes earlier in the season; since then, they have become devastating.

Ohio has had trouble keeping its emotions in check so far this season. That showed in game one against Liberty. The Bobcats had 45 penalty minutes in the loss. Tyler Harkins was also disqualified from the game with less than two minutes remaining.

Other things that have plagued the team are that they’re trying to do too much with the puck. This has resulted in a lot of turnovers in the defensive zone. So far, the top teams have been able to capitalize on those mistakes.

Still confident

There are positives in this losing stretch for Ohio. The team has shown it’s close to where it should be if it wants to beat the top teams.

"We've played some good teams so far," senior goalie Jimmy Thomas said. "We are right there in every game. We've won some good games, and we've lost some tough games."

This is something that has helped gain confidence despite the losing streak. It is building confidence for later in the season when the team might face these opponents again, and in the present.

"It might sound weird, but I think it is breeding confidence right now," Bell said. "We know we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We know it's not us trying to scramble and hang on."


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