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Ohio forward Nick Erker (#2) handles the puck in the offensive zone during the Ohio Bobcats game against the Liberty Flames on Friday, March 5, 2021, at the Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio. (FILE)

Hockey: Despite strong offensive performance, Ohio loses 4-3

Having struggled in third periods recently, Ohio’s two quick goals to take the lead just 45 seconds into the third period was huge. The Bobcats appeared to be in control of the game. 

But the lead would not hold. Liberty’s Quinn Ryan scored a short-handed breakaway goal following a turnover and Liberty’s blue line. 

The Bobcats then found themselves stuck in the penalty box, with Liberty’s Brock Thompson retaking the lead, sniping a bar-down wrist shot from the point for a 5-on-3 goal. 

The Bobcats’ 4-3 loss Saturday evening was gut-wrenching. Ohio (1-11) is now 0-6 on the season against Liberty (8-3). It was a loss that coach Cole Bell thought was caused by little mistakes that prevented what should have been a 3-1 or 3-2 win.

“That was a great start to the third. And I thought we continued to play well. And then costly, soft mistakes,” Bell said. “You can’t be making those. You play teams like this, they’re gonna capitalize on their chances. We capitalized on their mistakes, they did the same and unfortunately we made one too many.” 

Bell said one of the things he talked about with his team after the game was the need to stay out of the penalty box. 

“That’s the mental toughness that we don’t have right now,” Bell said. “We played a hell of a game for about 58 minutes and 30 seconds but unfortunately the game’s 60 minutes long and those couple mistakes, those couple shifts cost us. When you play good teams that’s the difference.” 

Ohio’s offense definitely performed better Saturday, with Ryan Higgins, Aiden Grieco and Alex Singley all notching goals. The offense also controlled and moved the puck well and kept up the pressure on Liberty’s defense, showing improvement from the previous night. 

“We talked about executing better, we talked about continuing to climb the hill and make progress, and move along in our development and the process of our team here,” Bell said of the offense heading into Saturday’s game. 

While talking about his offense, Bell also said his players looked energetic. With Andrew Wells and Kyle Craddick out for Saturday’s game, he thinks the players showed up to fill in for those guys. 

“I think there’s a kind of excitement, it’s kind of weird when that happens right?” Bell said. “We had Wells and Craddick out, two big contributors on our team and two important pieces, and it always seems to happen when something like that goes on and you have those kinds of guys out that, the energy gets a little higher, the energy gets a little more exciting. Guys get a little bigger of an opportunity, the guys know they have to show up and kind of make up, pick up the slack from those guys being out.” 


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