Ohio’s 4-1 loss against Liberty (7-3) Friday night was its seventh straight loss, dropping its record to 1-10 on the season.
Even though they’ve only played 10 games so far this season, this was the fifth time the Bobcats have taken on the Flames.
The Bobcats have struggled against Liberty this season. They were coming off of a rough weekend, losing 4-1 at LaHaye Ice Center on Feb. 26, and then getting steamrolled by the Flames 9-1 the next afternoon, a loss coach Cole Bell described as hitting rock bottom. And though their performance improved Friday night, the Bobcats fell behind and couldn’t come back.
Following Friday’s loss, the Bobcats are now 0-5 against the Flames this season.
The loss was much like other recent games for the Bobcats; they played an evenly matched game for the first two periods, then got outplayed in the third.
“They got good players, they’re a good team,” Bell said of Liberty. “We've all got good programs here, they run a pretty good program over there and got some good players. They fight hard too. They’re here, they’re just as passionate as we are, and I definitely don’t wanna take anything away from them at all.”
Liberty is not the only team that Ohio has played multiple times. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this season’s schedule is far from normal. Even though the Bobcats have sixteen total regular season games slated for this season, they are only going up against three total opponents: Liberty, Lindenwood and Adrian.
Adrian is currently 14-1 on the season while Lindenwood is 10-0.
Bell doesn’t see any type of negative impact on playing the same teams frequently, but he does think it creates intense hockey.
“I certainly think it helps breed some good rivalries, some good intensity. It’s playoff-like hockey,” Bell said. “I think the thing that’s tough right now is they’re all really tough opponents. And we’re right there.”
Going up against talented, successful teams has been especially hard for Ohio given its youth. Eighteen of the 28 players on Ohio's roster are underclassmen. Senior forward Kyle Craddick acknowledged that Liberty, like Adrian and Lindenwood, is an older team with a lot more experience.
“They’re an older team,” Craddick said. “They got a lot of experience behind their guys and they move the puck well. They’re fast. They got a lot of skill. It’s nothing that we can’t compete with. We've just got to take that next step as a team and start winning some games.”
Bell emphasized that confidence is important when going up against teams as tough as Ohio’s opponents this season.
“Honestly I think the big difference right now is they probably have a little more confidence than we do, and it’s something that we battle with every day,” Bell said. “It’s tough to get that back. But this week in practice was great, we certainly took steps to earning that, and nobody gives you confidence. You have to go out there and earn it.”
The Bobcats will take on Liberty again Saturday for game two of their home series at Bird Arena. As they try to turn things around against what has become a common foe this season, the Bobcats will have to fight for all 60 minutes. Discussing entering the third period of a game, Bell tied it back to having confidence going up against these tough opponents.
“It’s mentally challenging,” Bell said. “And mentally, I don’t wanna say exhausting but it definitely wears you down when you’re going into the period and you know you have to battle, you know you kind of have to fight back. When you have that confidence, there’s a little more positive excitement, a little more confidence, a little more belief that we are gonna get the job done and that helps you get through it. And sometimes I think that gets the better of us.”
But like Bell, Craddick believed that after last weekend, his team was headed in the right direction following a good week of practice.
“We’re definitely on the way up after last weekend, so we can make this a great weekend, go 1-1 against them, steal one going into senior weekend, so that’s huge,” Craddick said. “Tomorrow’s a big one, so it can really turn things around.”