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Ohio defenseman Shawn Baird (#14) chases down the puck during the Ohio Bobcats game against the Liberty Flames on Friday, March 5, 2021, at the Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio

Hockey: Ohio shows improvement but loses another game to Liberty 4-1

In every game Ohio has played this season, its energy and desire to win has been on par with any top team. 

The enthusiasm was alive for the Bobcats when they took on the Flames Friday night at Bird Arena, and after hitting rock bottom with a blowout loss to the same team a week prior, Ohio was back on track in the right direction. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, their weak spots were still open against the Flames which allowed Liberty to win 4-1.

While Ohio (1-10) played better than the previous week, it still saw similar mistakes throughout the game against Liberty (7-3). Shot opportunities weren’t being capitalized on, the defense didn’t contain as well after the first period and it didn’t make the right adjustments against its opponent. 

“(It’s) pretty much the same thing,“ captain Kyle Craddick said. “Just little lapses are costing us games, and we’ve got to find a way to figure it out.”

Ohio coach Cole Bell wasn’t as concerned with changing up the team’s game plan after the previous loss as much as he wanted the Bobcats to improve and perfect what it was working with. Even if they lost, a 4-1 loss is a step above a 9-1 blowout.

“I think we just executed better,“ Bell said. “I know a big part of us is just making sure we finish through the man and being physical.”

The execution looked solid for most of the first period. Ohio came out early with plenty of energy, leaving many Liberty players looking lost on the ice as it took an early 1-0 lead from a Drew Magyar goal. It was everything Bell wanted to see from his team. But the Bobcats know now, the first period is almost irrelevant.

After giving up one goal, Liberty scored four unanswered points and didn’t allow a goal for the rest of the night. Ohio still had the passion for a win but didn’t match it with the well-executed technique and dynamics it saw in the first period. 

Bell thinks the key to solving these issues is confidence, something he sees much of in the Flames.

“It definitely wears you down when you’re going into a period and you know you have to battle,“ Bell said.

Even after the loss, Ohio’s spirits didn’t look down. Friday night was another loss, but the Bobcats feel they are so close to getting to where they need to be with a young team going against tough opponents.

“We need to continue to find ways to create some offense,“ Bell said. “Right now, if you continue to fight, continue to battle and continue to climb and improve, tomorrow’s going to be a different story.” 

Ohio will have another shot to beat Liberty Saturday night. The Bobcats have a long history with the Flames, and they’d love to take one from Liberty at Bird Arena just once this season. They think they’re where they need to be in order to do that, too.

“We’re definitely on the way up after last weekend“ Craddick said. “We can make this a great weekend. Tomorrow’s a big one, and we can really turn things around.”

If the execution of the game plan improves and the energy is kept up, Ohio is capable of getting its first win against Liberty this season.



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