Ohio improved to 4–1 on the season with a 6–1 win over West Virginia. Once again, a strong first period was a major part of the victory Thursday night at Bird Arena.
Through five games, the Bobcats have outscored their opponents 14–2 in the opening period, and that includes being tied 1–1 with Pitt after one period in both their games the previous weekend.
More specific than just strong first periods, scoring first has been key for Ohio this season. They’re still early in their schedule, but the Bobcats are 4–0 when they score first and 0–1 when they do not.
While it may seem clear that early goals help a team, they have been absolutely key for Ohio so far this season. One of the reasons is that the early goals the Bobcats have scored this season have gotten the Bird Arena crowd fired up, which gives the team a major boost.
“It’s huge,” Ohio coach Lionel Mauron said. “With the fans back in the room, this building just gives us so much energy.”
The players can feel that energy too, and it is part of what propelled the Bobcats to a 4–0 first period lead over the Mountaineers.
“I think it’s good for everyone, and it boosts the confidence on the bench and boosts up the crowd,” JT Schimizzi, a junior forward who registered a goal and an assist in the first period, said.
Even though Bird Arena has only been at 50% capacity this season, the fans have consistently created a lively atmosphere, and that has only been helped by the Bobcats’ frequent early goals.
Ohio plays its first 11 games, and 15 of its first 16, at home, so it will have plenty of opportunities to get the crowd rocking early.
In addition to getting the crowd going, getting off to a hot start allows the Bobcats to give their opponents something to think about during the first intermission.
“We can go in the locker room and everything’s positive and we keep the confidence,” Schimizzi said. “And they have to go back to the south locker room and think about what we just did to them.”
The Bobcats gave the Mountaineers a lot to think about Thursday night as they ended the first period with a stretch of three goals in just over three minutes to push their lead to 4–0.
Just as it did against John Carroll in the first two games of the season, Ohio jumped out to an early lead and cruised for the rest of the game. If it can do that against Roosevelt as well, it will be looking at a 3–0 weekend.
Picking up two or three wins over the weekend would help the Bobcats recover from a disappointing loss to Pitt the previous weekend in which they struggled to get going in. Whether Ohio’s success is a result of its quick starts or the quick starts are a result of the competition so far, coming out of the blocks early will be key for it as the season moves forward.