Ohio University player, Brock Rumbaugh, facing off Elliot Tisdale in Bird Arena at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, on February 3, 2017. The bobcats won 9-0.

Ohio Ready for Central Oklahoma in ACHA National Championship Game

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A few weeks ago, the Ohio Bobcats skated off the ice in Bensonville, Ill. losers of their last three games. With their win Monday night the Bobcats are riding a three-game winning streak and sit only one win away from claiming their fifth national championship in school history.

During the two weeks leading up to the national tournament, Ohio head coach Sean Hogan preached to the team about having a fresh start and not letting their past performances dictate what would happen in the national tournament.

Hogan mentioned after the 4-2 victory over Adrian that it is important for a team to face obstacles and overcome challenges throughout the season because very rarely does a team win without facing adversity.

“You have to go through adversity to win a championship, you can’t just go and win every game,” Hogan said. “I guess sometimes that happens, but usually you need to go through adversity, you need to battle back and have a tough win, which we did yesterday. You need to go through something as a group that makes you stronger.”

The team took that message to heart and has played their best hockey all season during their run to the national championship game.

Ohio’s opponent for the national championship on Tuesday is the fourth-ranked Central Oklahoma Bronchos who finished the season with a 30-7-1 record and won the Western Collegiate Hockey League championship.

Central Oklahoma defeated Illinois 7-3 in the first round. After that the Bronchos followed up their first round victory with a 6-1 victory against Iowa State in the quarterfinals. Then in the semifinals Monday night they took down No. 1 Minot State 6-5 to advance to the title game Tuesday.

The Bronchos have scored a total of 19 goals in their three national tournament games so far. Forward Sam Rice and center Landon Robin lead the team with four goals apiece. Goalie Alex Henry has saved 94 out of the 103 shots he’s faced thus far in the tournament and has given up an average of three goals per game.

As for their special teams play in the tournament, Central Oklahoma is 10-of-11 on the penalty kill and 2-of-10 on the power play.

Ohio comes into the national championship game with a ton of confidence and are firing on all cylinders. Not only have the Bobcats scored five power play goals in the national tournament, they have also scored four shorthanded goals in their three game run. The Green and White have had their fair share of opportunities in each game, getting at least 50 shots on goal in all three national tournament games.

One key to the Bobcats success could be the paring of freshman Gianni Evangelisti along with Patrick Spellacy and Liam Geither on the same line. Both Spellacy and Geither each have scored four goals for while Evangelisti is tied for the team lead in assists in the national tournament with four.

However, the Bobcats offense is not the only reason why they find themselves in the National Championship Game. Freshman goaltender Jimmy Thomas has stepped up in a major way, stopping 71 of the 76 shots he has faced in the national tournament.

Hogan is familiar with the pressure of the national championship game and knows his guys will be ready to compete tonight for a shot at winning the ultimate prize. This appearance in the national championship game ends a 13-year drought for the Bobcats, who will be ready to go when the puck drops Tuesday night. Hogan is the first coach to take two different teams to the ACHA National Championship Game. He led Oakland to the game in 2007.

“We don’t want to dwell on how long it’s been,” Hogan said. “We just want to focus on the next 60 minutes and with the way we are playing right now it won’t be hard to do that.”

For Evangelisti Tuesday night’s game will be big for him in more ways than one. The Ice Haus in Columbus is where he started his hockey career as a boy and now he has a chance to win a championship in the same building where it all began for him.

“It would awesome,” Evangelisti said. “When coach Hogan was recruiting me he mentioned the national championships were in Columbus for the next couple years and that was exciting to me and when the year started it was kind of in the back of everyone’s head to get to Columbus, let’s get there, let’s rock and roll and try to win a national championship.”

Win or lose Tuesday night that will be the final game for the ten seniors on the team and like they have been saying all season their goal has been to leave Athens a champion.

“We want to go out on top,” Spellacy said after the Bobcats win Monday night. “With tomorrow being our last game win or lose, we set ourselves up to do something very special. All the seniors here and everyone on the team, we are all brothers, we all came together at the beginning of the season for something special and we want to finish the deal.”