The Ohio Bobcats began Saturday’s game with excitement on the bench before the opening puck-drop. The game ended with plenty of cause for celebration, as the contest concluded with a hat trick, a shutout streak extended, plenty of physical play and a good chance that the Bobcats will assume the #1 ranking in the ACHA after Ohio defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers by a score of 7-0.
Ohio opened the scoring with 5:56 left in the first period with a short-handed goal by Jay Mazzarella, as he knocked in a beautiful pass-off-pad delivered by Jonathan Pietramala.
Pittsburgh’s goalie, junior Matt Schmidlin, was not phased by letting in the short-handed tally. He proceeded to make 11 saves to keep the Bobcats’ lead at one goal at the conclusion of the period.
Ohio struggled on the breakout throughout the course of the first period, as well, but Pittsburgh was unable to capitalize on the many unforced errors the Bobcats committed in their own zone.
The second period was a different story, however. The Bobcats’ breakout woes were solved and crisp exits out of their end of the ice allowed them to further control the play at even strength and cut down on Pitt’s legitimate scoring opportunities.
Defenseman Tyler Benson rifled a shot through traffic and past Schmidlin’s blocker for Ohio’s second goal of the game.
Physicality between the two teams grew during the second period, as most of the chippy play from Friday night’s game carried over to this match-up. Both teams combined for 12 minor penalty minutes in the second period alone. Late in the period, Jay Mazzarella was able to redirect a hard pass in the slot into the top left corner of the Pitt net for his second goal of the game.
The flood gates opened in the third, as Ohio unleashed a relentless offensive attack in the early minutes of the period.
Michael Harris scored his third goal of the season, which was set up by a great forechecking sequence by Jonathan Pietramala and Vincent Nicolella. The Bobcats’ fifth goal of the game came at the hands of Brett Agnew, who slid the puck past Pittsburgh’s goal line with a gorgeous backhand-forehand move with a Pitt defender hanging on his back.
At about the nine-minute mark of the third period, Ohio defenseman Paul Sergi and Pitt defender Jeff Clark were escorted off of the ice by officials and given coincidental five-minute penalties for an altercation that took place between the two after Clark delivered a hit to the head of Ohio captain, Tyler Pilmore.
Pilmore got up from the hit on his own will and was unharmed. Nick Hudeck, who usually sees more time on Ohio’s penalty kill rather than on its power play, tipped a shot from the point past Schmidlin for the Bobcats’ only power play goal of the game. Ohio went one for four with on the power play tonight, but managed to kill off every man advantage their opponent had during the course of the game.
The victory was secured for Ohio by the time the one-minute warning came over the speakers in Bird Arena, but the student section known as “Gang Green” was still brought to their feet as Jay Mazzarella stripped a Pitt defender of the puck and zipped a snapshot off of the post and into the net with only 3.1 seconds remaining in the game to complete his hat trick.
When the final buzzer sounded moments later, Ohio had earned the 7-0 victory. Goaltender Matt Michno had posted 120 minutes of shutout goaltending over the weekend in the series against Pittsburgh.
Elsewhere in the ACHA, #1 ranked Lindenwood University was swept over the weekend by Central Oklahoma.
With Ohio’s convincing wins over Pittsburgh, improving their record on the year to 4-0, there is an extremely good chance that the Bobcats will jump from #2 to #1 overall in the ACHA.