Ohio didn’t let a slow start or a goalie change keep it from crushing Pitt Friday. It communicated well throughout the game and scored five goals in the second period, ending the night with a 7-1 win at home.
The Panthers defense was strong for the majority of the first period, and the Bobcats had a hard time breaking through. However, they kept chipping away at the defense as time went on. With 8:13 left in the first, Laker Aldridge continued his recent offensive success and scored the first goal of the game.
Neither team scored again in the first, but there was still plenty of back-and-forth play. Ohio spent as much time defending its own net as it did taking shots on Pitt’s net.
When the Bobcats came out for the second period, though, the course of the game changed. Andrew Wells sent a quick shot from quarter ice into the middle of the net to put the Bobcats up 2-0.
35 seconds later, Ryan Higgins flipped the puck to Aldridge who was right in front of the net. There was so much commotion, Pitt goalie Devin Barresi didn’t have time to reset before Aldridge tapped the puck into the left corner of the net for his second goal of the night.
Just like that, Ohio was up 3-0.
“If you face us and you lose your structure, you’re dead,” Ohio coach Lionel Mauron said. “We have guys that put the puck in the net every time.”
When Pitt’s Oldrich Virag was sent to the penalty box for goalie interference with 15:19 remaining in the second, it gave Ohio another opportunity to score. Luc Reeve wasted no time capitalizing on that opportunity, scoring Ohio’s third goal 17 seconds into the powerplay.
After Ohio’s fourth goal, Pitt needed to make a change. It immediately took Barresi out, and Grant Lindsay went in. Although the goalie change did give Pitt a little renewed energy, it didn’t last long.
By the end of the night, Ohio had scored seven goals, its third straight game doing so. One of the final three goals was scored by Jaden Pashe, his first of the season.
Part of the reason for the Bobcats’ success Friday and over the past couple weeks has been increased communication. The great puck work and passes between linemates against Pitt showed that they are working together well as a team.
“We have a very vocal group,” Mauron said. “They like to have fun together. They're very familiar with each other, and I think that translates well to the ice because they talk a lot.”
That communication extends to the defense as well. Ohio struggled defensively towards the end of last season, but have improved tremendously since then. Ohio’s goalies and defenseman have stopped a lot of close shots so far this season.
At one point during the game Friday, Aiden Grieco skated behind goalie Justin Damon to stop a puck that was dangerously close to sliding in. Having that support from his team means a lot to Damon.
“It just makes my job easy knowing like if I make that first save, they'll usually have my back," Damon said.
Damon finished the night with 23 saves, only allowing one goal, in the second period. The goal came when Damon was still on the ground from blocking another shot, and Pitt just caught him at a bad time.
With the win, Ohio moves to 11-2 on the season, one of its best starts since 2016. If it can keep up the communication and playing as a team, Ohio may be in for a fun season.