ACHA Showcase Holds High Stakes For Ohio

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Fresh off of back-to-back losses, the Bobcats are heading north to Mentor, Ohio, for the ACHA Showcase. The showcase presents a unique set of circumstances for Ohio. No matter how well the team performs, it can’t respond after dropping two games in a row by improving its record, but a poor showing could prove to be devastating to its hopes for making the national championship tournament.

Any wins or losses in the three-game event will not count towards the Bobcats’ official league record, but they will be considered by the new computer-based ranking system used in the ACHA. The system was introduced at the start of the 2013-14 season, and like college football’s BCS, it takes into account a team’s highs and lows, margin of victory, strength of competition, and other team statistics throughout the course of the year.

Though the season is still young, the 2-2-1 Bobcats cannot afford to fall much further behind the eight ball, and have gotten a tough draw for the showcase. Ohio will play unfamiliar foes in Colorado State on Friday, Navy on Saturday, and Niagara on Sunday. Navy and Niagara both qualified for the national tournament last year, and Colorado State is stuck at .500, just like Ohio.

When the ‘Cats and Rams clash at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, it will see two of the best playmaking freshmen in club hockey go head-to-head. Colorado’s Will Neff and Ohio’s Joe Breslin both average exactly two points a game and lead their teams in points at this point in the season. Breslin has racked up five goals and five assists, while Neff’s earned only one goal but a whopping eight assists.

Navy, the only military academy without an NCAA Division I hockey program, has the nation’s reigning leading scorer back for his senior year. John Krysil scored 88 points in 36 games in 2012-13, 11 more than the nation’s runner-up in four fewer games. This season, though, Navy has a staggering 147 penalty minutes in only six games. Ohio’s power play is 38.46 percent in the past two weekends. If the Bobcats can stay hot on the man advantage, they may be able to offset the heavy-powered offense of Navy.

Ohio faced the Purple Eagles of Niagara more recently of any of its other showcase opponents. The two programs went head-to-head in Nov. of 2008, and the Bobcats won both games in convincing fashion. Now, the Purple Eagles are off to a slow 1-2 start to the 2013-14 campaign after losing their two top scorers from the previous season.

The showcase has a feel of being a weekend of exhibition games that count. Considering Ohio’s recent slump and the competition they will face, the Bobcats will want to use the ACHA Showcase as an opportunity to capitalize on these “exhibition” matches to send a message to the rest of the country, and to the computers, too.