Ohio’s Powerless Power Play

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All was good for Ohio Hockey after its 5-2 defeat of fellow CSCHL member Iowa State at Bird Arena on Jan. 17. The Bobcats potted three power play goals in the win, and it was the third game in a row in which they scored on the man advantage. Their power play finally looked to be getting hot, but instead hit a polar vortex.

Ohio has scored only one time on the man advantage in its past three games, and the team lost two of those. This problem is far from anything new, however, as the Bobcats’ powerless power play have gone a combined 3-for-34 in their nine losses this season.

“Obviously, that’s not very good,” said Ohio head coach Jonathon Sheridan. “I can tell you for sure that that’s one of the reasons we lost on Saturday night [against Illinois].”

It’s also one of the reasons the Bobcats fell in their second game at home to Iowa State, when they put up a goose egg on the power play despite being handed seven different opportunities, including one in sudden death overtime.

Since the start of the season in September, Ohio’s power play has an 18.75 percent success rate, which is to say not bad, but certainly not good either. The Bobcats have been known to play a very physical game, and combine that with the talents of Matt Hartman and Derek Rahme, players who relish getting under the opponent’s skin, the Green and White typically suckers opponents into taking penalties out of frustration or retaliation. When and if teams do parade to the box, Sheridan knows putting forth a power play that’s “just okay” won’t cut it.

“The power play has been a struggle for us all year,” Sheridan freely admits. “We’ve had chances late in games that we don’t capitalize on, and I think that hurt us.”

The first step to solving any problem is admitting that it exists in the first place. Sheridan and his players seem to have their heads wrapped around their woes on the man advantage, but addressing the specifics on how to turn their special teams’ offense around isn’t quite as easy. So the coaching staff decided to put extra emphasis on what it felt was the biggest area of concern in order get the power play back on track.

“I think our biggest adjustment we made was working on our focus,” Sheridan said. “We didn’t come out very focused this past weekend, and it showed, so in practice this week, we put the onus on our guys to be more focused. I think it all follows from there. You’re focused, you make better passes, read the play better, that kind of stuff.”

Tactically, Sheridan feels the team doesn’t need to change anything, so expect them to continue running an umbrella system with their first unit and an overload with the second group. The feeling in the Bobcats’ locker room isn’t that the system or the players themselves are flawed, it’s just the execution that’s been lacking.

“We just need to go back to doing simple things,” said Ohio forward Michael Harris, who regularly sees ice time on the power play. “We just need to move the puck more, shoot more, and keep things simple and things will start going our way again.”

“I just think we need to get more pucks to the net,” Sheridan added. “Maybe move the puck a little quicker, but mostly get pucks on net.”

Now refocused and with their theory of simplification in mind, the Bobcats have only six more regular season games to solve the issues before the CSCHL Tournament and ACHA National Tournament.

“We’ll get it back,” Harris said with a smile, “don’t worry.”

Though Harris’ vote of confidence speaks volumes about the confidence in the team’s scoring potential, if past performance is any indicator of future results, Ohio’s power play is still very worrisome.

Correction, Jan. 29, 2014, 9:08 p.m. This article has been changed to reflect the following correction: Matt Hartman was misidentified as Ryan Hartman.