Ohio’s regular season has come to an end. All focus has shifted toward the Central States Collegiate Hockey League playoffs and the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament in the coming weeks. After 36 games and a recent win streak, Ohio enters postseason play at 24-8-4.
Post beat writers Andrew Allison and Jack Gleckler take a look at the highs and lows of the six-month season before the CSCHL playoffs in Champaign, Illinois.
Allison: Ohio 2, Lindenwood 1 — Nov. 23
The Bobcats had issues with consistency when they faced top opponents early in the season. After it let in four unanswered goals in the Friday night game, Ohio turned around and defeated Lindenwood 2-1 Saturday night.
That win was a turning point in the season for the Bobcats. They went on to win five out of their next six games. All three of those series were against ranked opponents.
Gleckler: Ohio 3, Lindenwood 2 — Jan. 25
After several suspensions following the Calvin series, Ohio had backup goalie Mason Koster start in Game 2 of its second series against Lindenwood. Koster proved himself as an effective goalie by posting a .959 save percentage in the Bobcats’ 3-2 win.
This is the game that marked another upturn in the Bobcats’ season. The Bobcats won eight of their next ten games and have shot to finish No. 4 in the ACHA.
If Ohio is able to finish in the No. 4 spot, it would give them a first-round bye in the ACHA tournament.
Ohio is currently the only team in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League that has a win against the Lions this season. What this win proved was Ohio has a shot at the CSCHL championship.
Allison: Calvin 4, Ohio 3 — Jan. 17
Ohio had dominated Calvin through the first two periods of the game and carried a 3-1 lead. In the third period, however, the Bobcats lost all the momentum. Ohio had 32 penalty minutes and allowed Calvin to score three unanswered goals in the period.
The Bobcats were ranked fifth in the nation earlier in the week. That may have been a factor in why they got overconfident and let up in the third period. That weekend served as a wake-up call for Ohio, who has won nine out of its last 11 games since that weekend.
Gleckler: Calvin 4, Ohio 3 — Jan. 18
Calvin was without a doubt the low point for the Bobcats’ season. Ohio was frustrated after the Friday loss to Calvin, and those frustrations boiled over Saturday. Six ejections and 130 penalty minutes for Ohio don’t lie.
Ohio was on a near-constant penalty kill during the second period, and back-to-back team brawls only added to a chaotic Saturday night.
There were few, if any, positives after the series against Calvin. It’s a weekend best left forgotten.
Biggest freshman impact:
Allison: J.T. Schimizzi
The forward has become a regular for the Bobcats, and his stats have proved that. Schimizzi has 23 points in 31 games, nine being goals. Six of his goals came against ranked opponents, and two were game-winning goals. Schimizzi is also currently riding a nine-point streak.
Gleckler: Sam Turner
Turner’s presence on defense has been felt in the latter half of the season. It wasn’t unusual to find him in the starting lineup alongside veteran defenseman Jake Houston the further the season progressed.
Turner and senior Timmy Thurnau are tied for second-highest scoring defenseman with 15 points. Unlike Thurnau, Turner has shied away from the penalty box and has only two penalty minutes this season.
Player of the year:
Allison: Tyler Harkins
Harkins and fellow senior Gianni Evangelisti are equal in almost every category, but Harkins gets the nod. Harkins’ ability to score goals caused defenses to focus on him opening his other teammates. The senior forward was the go-to guy when Ohio needed a goal during the season, having a team-high five game-winning goals.
Gleckler: Jimmy Thomas
Ohio wouldn’t be on the track it is now if it weren’t for Thomas. The 32 games he has played this season are the most in the ACHA. Thomas ended the season with a .911 save percentage, 2.28 goals against average and broke the Ohio career record for shutouts.
Allison: Ohio got a tough draw for its first game of the CSCHL tournament. The second-seeded Bobcats have to play the third seed and host school, Illinois.
The Bobcats' only loss against the Fighting Illini this season came at the University of Illinois Ice Arena. This time around, though, the Bobcats are playing their best hockey and have won eight out of their last 10 games.
The Bobcats should get past their first tough task, then will most likely have to face Lindenwood in the championship round. The Lions are ranked third in the nation, but Ohio is the only team to take points away from the Lions in CSCHL play.
If the Bobcats continue to play the way they have recently, they have a good chance at defeating the Lions and winning the CSCHL crown for the first time since 2012-13.
Prediction: Ohio defeats Lindenwood in finals
Gleckler: The Bobcats may have to take on home team Illinois, but on paper, they have the edge. Ohio is peaking at the right time of the season and has a 3-1 record against Illinois.
If Ohio defeats Illinois, its most probable opponent is the heavy favorite to win the CSCHL: Lindenwood.
The Bobcats are so far the only team in the CSCHL to defeat Lindenwood and have split both series against them this season.
Prediction: Ohio loses to Lindenwood in finals
ACHA national tournament predictions
Allison: Ohio struggled through parts of this season. Despite that, it was able to stay competitive with teams that were ranked just as high. Now, Ohio is playing its best hockey and peaking at the right time.
The freshmen have started to come around, especially Schmizzi and Turner. If the Bobcats continue at this pace and create a championship culture in the CSCHL tournament, they will be a team that will be hard to beat in Frisco, Texas.
Prediction: Ohio wins the national championship
Gleckler: The national tournament is difficult to guess. Ohio has faced highly-ranked teams like Liberty and Michigan-Dearborn and been swept. Beyond surface level, Ohio managed to compete with those teams, and three of its four losses to Liberty and Dearborn were shootout losses.
The Bobcats may have reached their stride in the last stretch of the season, but the question still remains of how long they can maintain it. The CSCHL playoffs will likely take a lot out of the Bobcats, and it’ll only be a matter of time before they slow down.
Prediction: Ohio loses in the quarterfinals