Ohio had another opportunity to salvage a blown lead against a quality opponent. And instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, it squandered it, and visiting Michigan-Dearborn defeated the Bobcats 3-2 after a four-round shootout was ended by Dearborn forward Justin Dunn.
Saturday looked promising for the Bobcats early on. They held a firm 2-1 at the beginning of the second period after forward Gianni Evangelisti scored his eighth goal of the year. For the majority of the second and third periods, Ohio’s defense kept the Dearborn offense in check by limiting its offensive opportunities.
The Wolverines’ Nic LaBurn, however, changed the game when he sent the puck into the back of the net with a 1:30 left on the clock, forcing the game into overtime.
Five minutes of three-on-three resolved nothing and led to a consecutive weekend shootout. Four Ohio skaters and three Dearborn skaters couldn’t find a way to sneak the puck past the opposite goalie until Dunn’s goal went past Jimmy Thomas’ glove.
After Friday’s 4-3 loss in a seven-round shootout, the Bobcats had to make a thorough evaluation of their play and see what needed improvement in the span of 24 hours. Specifically, their play early in the first period held the aggressiveness that they want to play with.
“I don’t do the whole ‘ra-ra’ speech,” coach Cole Bell said. “They looked at last night and knew coming out slow cost them. They wanted to fix that mistake, and that’s what I saw.”
The Bobcats’ offense may have started off well, but they receded back into complacency — once again — when they felt their lead was set in stone.
Despite having plenty of opportunities, the Bobcats were 0-6 on the power play. They failed to convert even after Dearborn forward Sterling Cooper was issued a five-minute major for spearing.
“There was a lot of urgency that we should have had,” Bell said. “We were sitting back and trying to be too smooth with it. We need to put force on that issue.”
The lack of discipline killed any hopes Ohio had of avoiding being swept. It was issued seven penalties Saturday, and many of the players failed to keep their emotions in check after Zach Frank was ejected for misconduct near the halfway mark of the third period. Jimmy Thomas was even charged with interference after intentionally knocking the goal out of place a few minutes later.
Bell figures the issue lies in many of the players letting their emotions take over following the tough calls after a wild brawl where got Frank ejected.
“We had too many guys jawing at the referees,” Bell said. “They took offense to it, and that hurt us late in the game. We’ve got to manage our emotions and deal with it.”
Ohio’s weekend against Dearborn was a much-needed reality check. It’s had too many lapse against subpar teams, but it has gotten away with it by having more talent. Now, against the No. 2 team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the Bobcats’ lapses cost them.
“We’ve got to learn how to win,” Bell said. “This was a good learning experience for us, especially the freshmen. (Dearborn) was the toughest team we’ve faced so far. We’re going to take what we need out of this series and take them into next week.”
Ohio’s next test will come on the road at Liberty on Nov. 8-9. Puck drop is slated for 11:59 p.m.