Sometimes you lose even when things seem to be working for your team. That’s how Ohio coach Cole Bell felt after Tuesday evening’s 2-0 loss to Liberty.
“I think that’s one of those games where I don’t know if we deserved to lose,” Bell said. “It was a hell of a shot that they scored on, and we certainly had our looks, and I think we play another game just like that, we come out on top and put a few in.”
Ohio’s (0-4) loss to Liberty (4-3) is the fourth loss in a rough start to 2021. The Bobcats have been swept in both of their first two series this season.
Most of the game was evenly matched. It wasn’t until 8:19 left in the second period that Liberty’s Quinn Ryan scored on an impressive short side, top shelf shot from near the top of the right circle.
Liberty did not find the net again until there was 45 seconds left in the third period when Cole Gammar scored an empty net goal.
The Bobcats put on a strong defensive performance. They allowed 30 shots on net; however, more than half of those came in the second period alone.
The biggest story line of Tuesday evening’s game was the decision to start freshman goaltender Matt Server over fellow freshman Max Karlenzig.
Bell said Karlenzig has looked good, but Server has also looked good in practice. With four games in five days, Bell believed Tuesday was an opportune time to get Server time on the ice.
In his first start of the season, Server stopped 28 of 29 shots he faced, shutting down plenty of scoring opportunities for Liberty.
Ohio had several chances to score but was not able to connect. Senior captain Kyle Craddick acknowledged that while his team needs to get more shots on net, it’s also about taking advantage of the chances they get.
“It also comes down to bearing down on the chances that we do get,“ Craddick said. “We had a lot of good, quality opportunities that either just missed the stick or went wide. Their goalie played well, but we’ve just got to find a way to win games.”
Despite having a stronger defensive performance, Bell said his team did not have any real different approach to Tuesday’s game from the day before. However, he said his team’s puck management was better.
“Between the games, we talked a lot about managing the puck,” Bell said. “I think last night what you saw, we did a good job initially and then got shots from the outside, nothing really dangerous. And then we’d retrieve the puck and then turn it over, and that’s when they really got their dangerous chances.”
Coming off a fourth straight loss, Bell has still seen clear improvement and says the team is “growing” and “expecting a lot of bright spots.”
“Trust the process,” Bell said. “Tonight was certainly a lot better than last night, which was a lot better than Wednesday at Lindenwood, which was better than Tuesday at Lindenwood.”
As captain of his team, Craddick is confident that despite the rough start to the season, the winning will come eventually.
“We just got to keep our heads up,“ Craddick said. “Keep grinding. It’s gonna come. We’d rather go through this now than at the end of the year.”
And even with the lack of scoring and shots missing the net, Bell is confident with the way his team is playing.
“Our game plan, our team, is not designed to win 5-4,“ Bell said. “We’re designed to win 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, low scoring type games. I think that’s what you saw here tonight. And, unfortunately, we just weren't able to get one in behind the goaltender. But I think if we play like that again on Thursday night, we’ll be just fine.”