Ohio was swept by Liberty on Friday and Saturday for the second time this season. The Bobcats played fairly well in both games but could not close out either game, losing both by a score of 3-4.
Ohio has had some wild Friday nights, mostly involving intense battles in Bird Arena. Last Friday, the Bobcats faced off against the Cyclones in a fierce matchup that saw Laker Aldridge securing the victory with 20 seconds left to go in regulation. This Friday was quite a similar nail-biting finish. However, it was Ohio who came on the losing end of the 3-4 scoreline against Liberty.
Ohio spent most of the game locked in a contentious offensive back-and-forth with Liberty, a team that always proves to be a formidable opponent.
The last time the Bobcats took on the Flames in November, they got swept and took an overtime loss in the first game of that series. Last night fit a similar mold, with Ohio falling by just a goal against a quick and aggressive Liberty team. Head Coach Lionel Mauron said the biggest challenge for the Bobcats was an overall lack of energy.
“A lack of energy and maybe a will to really make it happen,” Mauron said.
The first period was quite the back-and-forth struggle for both teams. Both goaltenders were putting up impressive stops, holding both teams to only two goals each. Liberty broke through early in the first period, scoring first just minutes into the period. Ohio forward Hollander Thompson fought back with a goal just three minutes later, but the tie did not last. It took less than a minute for the Flames to make it back down into scoring position and they broke the tie just like that.
Luc Reeve, who had scored a goal in the last three games for Ohio, scored yet another to tie it up at the end of the first. Another factor that played into the Bobcats' loss was the sheer size of the Flames, making it difficult to win battles.
“I thought we lost too many battles, so maybe the size was a factor,” Mauron said. “I think our competitive level needs to be higher … you have to find a way every time.”
The second period was a near repeat of the first, with Liberty scoring just a few moments in to take the lead once again. It took the Bobcats a little longer to retaliate against that one, but rookie Barron Stibbe snuck one right into the net and brought the score to an even 3-3, but it took just about two minutes for the Flames to score again. Every time Ohio tied the lead, it was unable to hold on for more than a couple of minutes.
“It’s just a shift in energy where all of a sudden, we’re a little flat for 20 seconds and they took advantage every single time,” Mauron said.
The third period was uneventful, with no scoring action happening from either team. Ohio had some close shots on the net, but it was ultimately unable to gain any offensive traction. Ohio fell in game one 3-4.
Ohio had another overtime loss in Bird Arena against Liberty on Saturday. Losing 3-4 for the second straight night, Ohio hopes to reach a new energy level with nationals coming up in four weeks.
“We need to find an energy that no matter what happens, we always find a way to make it work,” Mauron said.
The first period started strong for the Bobcats as they scored first on a goal scored by Mathieu Ovaert with an assist from Aiden Grieco and Noah Holt. Liberty tied it up not long after, starting a back-and-forth style of scoring that lasted for the remainder of the game. The period ended with both teams having 14 shots on goal.
The Flames came back ready to put some distance between it and the Bobcats. The Flames scored within the first thirty seconds of the second period. Drake Albers scored a goal to tie the game with less than two minutes left in the period.
The game was tied at two ahead of the third period. Despite Ohio’s best efforts, the team found itself in another close game with Liberty.
“They are very good at taking advantage of small mistakes,” Mauron said of the Flames’ strengths.
With just four minutes remaining, Jack Glen scored a goal for Ohio putting them back in the lead with a score of 3-2. Just a minute later Liberty generated an answer returning the game to a tie. The last-minute goal brought the Flames and Bobcats into overtime tied at three.
Early in the overtime period, the Flames came up with the game-winning goal, delivering a devastating loss to the Bobcats for the second night in a row. Despite the loss, several players stood out to Mauron tonight.
“We have Noah Holt and Mathieu Ovaert, that line who played very well,” Mauron said. “Justin Damon played really well in the back, overall it is not a bad game at all.”
Overall the Bobcats had improvements from Friday’s game, but was not enough for the team to get their first win over the Flames of the season.
“Yeah it was a little bit better (the bounces), especially at the end of the game,” Mauron said. "I think we still need to be more consistent.”
Ohio will get its next chance to take down Liberty on Feb. 22 and 24.