Ohio had won 16 consecutive games against Pitt since 2011 heading into Friday, and while it ended up extending that streak to 17, it faced its first true test of the season in a 6-3 win at Bird Arena.
Just as it did in both games against John Carroll the previous weekend, Ohio started off on the front foot as a power play goal from junior captain Sam Turner gave it the lead just over five minutes into the game.
Unlike John Carroll, however, Pitt responded. The Panthers levelled the score with four minutes remaining in the first period, and the Bobcats were rattled.
Ohio’s discomfort only increased as Pitt took the lead two minutes into the second period. It was the first time the Bobcats had trailed all year, and how they responded was a big indicator of what kind of team they are.
“It was the first time this season that we faced adversity, and I’m really proud of the way we reacted,” coach Lionel Mauron said. “I think last year was a great learning tool, because we faced a ton of it.”
After going behind, Ohio fought back to take a 3-2 lead on another goal from Turner and one from junior forward JT Schimizzi, but Pitt responded once again and tied the game early in the third period.
This time, Ohio was prepared to throw the knockout punch. Schimizzi scored his second goal of the night to give the Bobcats a 4-3 lead and send the Bird Arena crowd into a frenzy, and it only got louder as Alex Singley scored just 30 seconds later to make it 5-3.
Ryan Higgins put the finishing touches on an important Bobcat victory by making it 6-3 with just under two minutes remaining.
Ohio did not look like the team that had thrashed John Carroll for 40 minutes Friday night, but it returned to its best in the third period. If they are the team that showed up for the final 15 minutes or so, the Bobcats will have lofty aspirations this year.
“I think for 40 minutes we were a good team, which by our standards is just OK,” Mauron said. “For the last 20 you saw a championship team, and that’s how we need to play the full 60 tomorrow.”
While Schimizzi scored the goal that got the lead, Ohio’s biggest star on the night was Turner, who helped get the Bobcats through those 40 “OK” minutes with a pair of goals. Both came from long range, and the defenseman’s offensive prowess left even his coaches speechless.
“I think I’m out of words,” Mauron said. “At this point, he just keeps surprising us.”
As for Turner, he was just waiting for the right opportunities to chip in going forward and help out his teammates.
“I just kind of saw my shots, and I took them,” Turner said. “Good things happen when you get pucks to the net.”
The Bobcats have gotten plenty of pucks to the net this year, scoring 22 goals in their first three games. They faced their first bit of adversity Friday, and the fact that they got through it is a good sign of things to come.