The spring semester is here, which means plenty of opposite-site rematches against teams with whom the Icers have already tangled. Rather than present another primer on these opponents as throughout the fall semester, I'll take a slightly different angle - updating what these teams have done since playing Penn State. This may crash and burn once I hit teams that don't get regular coverage from their student newspapers, but it still beats me telling you for a second time that Ohio goalie Blake MacNicol transferred from Alabama-Huntsville. Oh wait, I just did.
Last time: O-H, They Go (10/22/2010) // Weekend Observations: Ohio (10/24/2010)
So how have the No. 4 Bobcats been since then? Pretty well actually - OU's last regulation loss was in the Friday game against the Icers. First up was a down Iowa State team in Ames. The No. 14 Cyclones are in legitimate danger of missing the ACHA national tournament for the first time ever (probably, educated guess on my part) and the Bobcats treated them accordingly in a revenge series, winning 4-1 and 5-1.
A veteran Ohio (6-3-1, 2-0 CSCHL) team relied on a tenacious forecheck to take advantage of the inexperienced Cyclone defenders. The [then] No. 6 Bobcats wore down Iowa State (5-9-0, 1-3 CSCHL) with sustained physical pressure, and the Cyclones broke in the final stanza of each contest.Ohio next returned home to face No. 6 Arizona State and lost 5-4 in a shootout Friday before winning 3-2 Saturday. The power play was vital to the 1-0-1 weekend.
"When you wear them down then those opportunities arrive late in the game, and I thought we did a good job capitalizing," Ohio head coach Dan Morris said. "You can see with three third-period goals Friday and two third-period goals Saturday."
It was a pair of seniors who led the way for the Bobcats Saturday as Billy Hemann and Brett Molnar combined for two power-play goals and five points. The goal was Molnar's first since the season-opener against Goderich Oct. 1.
During the weekend, six of the Bobcats' seven goals came on the man advantage, a statistic head coach Dan Morris finds positive but also troubling.The next four games were against ACHA Division 2 Miami and Ohio State, all Ohio wins by a combined 25-8. Yawn. Next.
"It's good and it's bad. We want to win the five-on-five battles ... We got beat this weekend on even-strength goals." Morris said. "That's an area of concern."
The Bobcats participated in the Wheeling Mountaineer Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend and came away with the tournament title on the strength of a 6-4 win over host West Virginia powered by the usual suspects - four assists from Tyler Pilmore, two goals each from Michael Schultz and Brett Agnew - the guy who torched the Icers for three power play goals in that 6-3 loss on October 23rd. A pair of wins at No. 13 Illinois followed, and while the Illini, like ISU, are a little down this year, collecting Ws on the Big Pond is never easy. Especially when you have to drop 'em every minute and a half or so.
I had the chance to attend Ohio's last game, a decisive 7-3 result against No. 20 Kent State December 11th (following a tight 2-1 win the night before). In particular, I felt like the Bobcats special teams dominated the penalty-riddled game, particular OU forwards Hemann, Alex DiMassa and Jared Fuhs on the penalty kill - the ability of Penn State to break through this group with a sort-of-struggling power play might be the key to these two games. You might look at the box score, see that KSU had three on the power play, and think I'm an idiot, but I only see one that wasn't in garbage time, and that was with the Flashes up two men. I actually think the box score's wrong about the second PPG too - I only see matching roughing minors in effect for that one.
Also, look out for defenseman Jake Holzemer on the Ohio power play - he likes to sneak down low fishing for a juicy rebound. It paid off with the game's first goal, but he also got burned at least once.
When you go to Athens, you always have to account for a couple different things.
- Bird Arena. The place defines "quirky, old school hockey barn." The surface is ten feet short of the usual 200, with most of that extra distance taken out of the neutral zone. The benches are on opposite sides as a result, giving the whole setup a high school football feel to it, but one that has an effect on the game itself - with a quick trip from O to D, the importance of transitional play is always an emphasis. As is physicality on the small ice.
- The fans. Fan involvement can be kind of hit-and-miss in the ACHA, but OU is one of the places with engaged spectators who don't have a kid on the team, including a student cheering section called Gang Green. One of them runs a lap around the ice with a flag after every Bobcat goal, although the excitement from the goal wears off, the "Hey! You suck!" chant concludes, and play gets back underway long before he's actually finished. Always kind of awkward.
|Would you pay $18 to sit with these people all season long?|