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Ohio defenseman Jacob Houston (#11) controls the puck during the Bobcats’ game on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Bird Arena.

Hockey: Ohio shows improvement but falls to Liberty 4-2

Ohio had the win in its sight. 

The Bobcats were in the middle of a late-game rally. Down by a goal with less than a minute remaining in the game, the Bobcats had a power play and went empty net in an attempt to force overtime. If they sent the game into an extra period, their hopes for their first win of the season might’ve become a reality. 

However, those hopes came to an end when Liberty’s Ryan Cox hit the puck right into the empty net with 22 seconds remaining. Liberty won 4-2, and Ohio went home without the win it had been vying for.

Despite the score, the Bobcats (0-3) have a lot to be proud of after their first game back in Athens in nearly a year. The most notable stat were the shots on goal. In the series against Lindenwood, Ohio was outshot by their opponent 85-43. On Monday, the Bobcats kept it even with the Flames (3-3), matching Liberty’s 31 shots with 31 of their own. 

Ohio only had eight penalty minutes as well, 10 minutes fewer than the 18 minutes-per-game average so far this year.

The game got off to a better start than what Ohio was used to this season. Lindenwood scored in the first period in both of its games against Ohio, but the Bobcats didn’t allow a first period goal this time around, and their offense looked just as aggressive as the Flames’. 

Shawn Baird, the defensive captain who is currently serving a one-game suspension, was happy with what he saw from some of the younger defensive players. 

“We looked solid up there moving the puck up fast,“ Baird said. “Just keep being physical. It really shuts them down.”

Baird will be back on the ice Tuesday. His presence will hopefully boost Ohio’s performance after Monday’s mistakes.

Ohio’s improved control of the puck was one of the reasons why it looked evenly matched against Liberty, who the Bobcats have a long history with.

“I think in Lindenwood, we probably threw the puck around a little too much,“ Ohio coach Cole Bell said. “We’ll chalk that up to the first couple games in 11 months.”

The second period was where Ohio began to lose control of the game. Flames forward Brock Thompson scored the first goal less than two minutes into the second. Five minutes later, Cole Gammer scored another goal for Liberty to put the Flames up 2-0.

In the second period, Liberty outshot Ohio 17-8. It was the only period where the Flames outshot the Bobcats. 

“(We) allowed them to get a little bit of momentum throughout the second period,“ Bell said. 

Hope remained alive for the Bobcats when Aiden Grieco struck the puck in the goal for his second goal of the his career, assisted by Zach Curry. Still, allowing two goals in three minutes put Ohio in a deep hole going into the final period that it dug itself into.

Ohio and Liberty looked evenly matched for most of the third period. The two teams traded a pair of goals when Alex Singley tied the game at 2-2 with 17 minutes remaining, and Liberty answered with a goal of its own from Colin Baird moments later to give the Flames the lead back. 

The rest of the period was mostly defensive, and while Ohio tried to go empty net with a few minutes remaining, it was unable to capitalize. Its rally, and hopes for a win, died with the goal from Cox. 

The loss was tough, but the Bobcats were not in bad spirits. Bell and team captains Baird and Kyle Craddick all saw improvement from the entire team Monday night. 

“I thought we played a pretty good game,“ Bell said. “We’re one or two plays away. We don’t need major changes.”

Ohio will play against Liberty again Tuesday, which is the perfect opportunity for the Bobcats to fix their mistakes. 

“I think we’re there,“ Craddick said. “It’s just going to be being consistent throughout the whole game.”


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