Ohio Hockey’s Season Ends with ACHA Championship Game Loss

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As the final horn sounded and Central Oklahoma rushed the ice to celebrate, the Ohio Bobcats slowly skated off the ice in disbelief and disappointment as they had fallen just one game short of their ultimate goal.

“We did something that hadn’t been done in a decade and I am proud of every single (teammate) and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys,” senior Liam Geither said. “We fought through adversity, there were peaks at moments and valleys at moments but to get to this point is amazing. Obviously we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted but I am damn proud of being in this game.”

Right away this game had the feeling of whoever got on the board first would have all the momentum and be in prime position to capture the ACHA National Championship.

Both goalies came into the national title game with impressive save percentages and it showed early on in the game, Ohio’s Jimmy Thomas and Central Oklahoma’s Alex Henry denied the opposition chances to score for much of the period.

However, with 2:33 left in the opening period, Bronchos forward Andrei Novikov broke out ahead of the Bobcats defense and ripped a shot past Thomas to put Central Oklahoma ahead 1-0. The Bronchos would take that one-goal lead into the locker room and went on to win 3-0.

Despite being down a goal after the opening 20 minutes, Ohio remained positive and aggressive on both sides of the ice. Their play in the defensive zone was stout for much of the second period, blocking multiple shots and rarely letting the Bronchos get deep in the offensive zone.

Unfortunately for Ohio, one of the few times the Bobcats let the Central Oklahoma offense get deep into their zone late in the second period the Bronchos capitalized, scoring their second goal of the game.

Ohio put 15 shots on goal in the second period but Henry stood tall in net and made one save after another to preserve the Bronchos 2-0 lead heading into the final period.

Ohio head coach Sean Hogan gave all the credit to Henry after the game and said he was okay with the shots they had and it was not for a lack of attempts, it came down to the play of the Central Oklahoma goaltender.

“Their goalie made a lot of big saves,” Hogan said. “We didn’t play poorly but the style they play was hard for us.”

Right from the start of the third period, the Bobcats offensive attack came out firing as they tried all they could to finally get the puck past Henry, but their attempts at cutting the lead were unsuccessful. Central Oklahoma’s defense shrunk in and crowded the net, making it difficult for Ohio to get any shots through.

In the final two minutes, Ohio made the decision to pull Thomas out of the goal and brought on an extra attacker in hopes of finally getting on the board. The Bobcats tried to break the shutout but ended up losing control of the puck and Bronchos forward Josh Wyatt fired the puck down the length of the ice and into the empty Ohio net.

That goal would seal the win for Central Oklahoma, and as their bench celebrated Ohio’s bench was quiet and as time ran out the Bobcat players dropped to a knee and let the emotion out.

“We made a great run these past two weeks, it was something really special to be apart of and I’m still extremely proud to be a Bobcat and go to battle with those 20 guys every single day,” senior captain Matt Hartman said. “They put in the work, we had a young team and they will be great for years to come.”

Geither was emotional after the game and fought back tears when talking about his final game with Ohio.

“I definitely watched a little bit (of the Central Oklahoma celebration) and thinking that could have been us but most of the time I was thinking about the guys who had our back,” he said. “I just hope the freshman and the younger guys aren’t satisfied with this and they will come back next year stronger then ever and come back and win it.”

Although Geither was proud of the way the team battled not only in the national championship but all season long, he admitted this loss stings and it would take awhile for that feeling to go away.

“I’ll let you know when this feeling goes away,” Geither said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take, it could take awhile, it could take years, I don’t really know.”

All in all it was a great season for the Bobcats, who will look to build off this year’s success and try to get back to where they were, just with a different outcome.

“Going forward I think we are going to be a very tough opponent, we are going to be hard to play against for a lot of years down the road with this group,” Hogan said. “This experience now builds on what we can do in the future.”