To catch the highlights of Ohio's 4-3 loss to Liberty on Saturday, March 6, check out the video above brought to you by WOUB Bobcat Sports Showcase reporter Zach Paquette.

Ohio Bobcats Hockey: Ohio Shows Signs of Improvement, Not Enough to Overcome Liberty

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — On the eve of Hockey Day in America, the Ohio Bobcats hockey club team played a Saturday matinee at Bird Arena in Athens against a team they’ve become quite familiar with this season, six times in fact, the Liberty Flames. Just like the previous five matchups with the Flames (8-3), the Bobcats came up on the short end as they fell, 4-3. However, there was much to be desired from the Bobcats performance in their game Saturday, and the Bobcats (1-11) came out with a mixed feeling.

“I’m going to say both,”  Ohio head coach Cole Bell said.  ” We are frustrated I mean we’re competitors. We all want to end the day on top, but we we’re really happy with about 58 minutes of the game. We played really well and started to find our identity and our offensive started to click. A lot of positives to take away but also a lot of lessons too.”

The scoring wouldn’t open up until very early on in the second period, 38 seconds to be exact. Liberty senior forward Cole Gammer, one of more than six Flames from Canada on their roster, fired a puck in front of the net that Ohio goaltender Max Karlenzig was able to block with his chest, but the rebound came right back to Gammer who poked the rebound into the open net to give Liberty the 1-0 lead.

The Flames would strike again a little more than three minutes later when on a strange sequence where Karlenzig lost his stick and fell over a few times due to something with his skate, Defenseman Chayden Lauber took a slapshot from the point that ricocheted off of Karlenzig and right onto the stick of Ryan Cox to whack into the wide-open net and extend the Liberty lead.

The Bobcats would prance on one of their scoring chances exactly three minutes later as Freshman Colin Felton batted his defender towards the net while going wide, waited until he dropped down and fired it in front that deflected off of a Liberty defenseman, and right there for Ryan Higgins to slap in and cut the deficit to one.

Going into the third trailing by one goal and on the power-play, Head Coach Cole Bell relayed a familiar message to his team.

“Find a way to fight back,” Bell emphasized.  “We’re going to have games where we’re down going into the third or facing adversary when we’re playing good teams. There’s always going to be a flow to the game.”

The first minute of the third period literally couldn’t have gone any better for the Bobcats. Just 24 seconds in, JT Schmizzi split the defense, walked in on a two-on-one and slid the puck over for Freshman Aiden Grieco to shovel the puck into the back of the net. Grieco was one of a few freshmen, alongside Felton, who really stepped up and made some plays.

“Aiden (Grieco) and (Colin) Felton have been playing really hard and doing great things for us so it’s really good to see them getting rewarded tonight,” Bell said.

The Bobcats wouldn’t be tied for long as just 18 seconds later, Andrew Sacca made a backhand pass to feed Alex Singley in the slot who one-timed the puck, got his own rebound and flicked the biscuit into the basket to give the Bobcats a 3-2 lead not even 45 seconds into the period. It was a sigh of relief for the Bobcats as for a team that had been struggling to score goals, got two in just a span of 18 seconds.

“The guys had been doing the right thing for a while,” explained Bell.  “We just couldn’t find a way to capitalize, finish the play and put the puck in the net, so it felt really good to see the guys get the monkey off their back and our offense is starting to look a little better.”

Ohio’s good stretch of play for the first few minutes earned them another powerplay opportunity.

“Hats off to the guys there coming back like they did. Those few minutes there were exactly what we talked about. Unfortunately, we just shot ourselves in the foot later on.”

On the ensuing man advantage, Liberty would steal back the momentum as Senior forward Quinn Ryan stole the puck from Zach Curry, took it in on a breakaway and went backhand, top shelf to beat Karlenzig and tie the game at three as both teams combined for 3 goals in under 4 minutes.

The Bobcats would have two costly penalties within 27 seconds of each other, as Ryan Hastings and Grieco went to the box to give Liberty a two-man advantage. On the ensuing five-on-three, captain Brock Thompson, who continues to be a thorn in the side of Ohio, fired a wrister from the point to beat Karlenzig for his fifth goal against the Bobcats in three games. That made it a 4-3 lead with almost 10 minutes to go in the third.

Liberty was able to hold onto their lead and get their sixth win in six games against the Bobcats this season. The two teams will meet in Virginia in two weeks to close out the regular season.

Ohio fell to 0-6 on the season against Liberty with its 4-3 loss on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Photo: Chris J. Day/WOUB).
Ohio fell to 0-6 on the season against Liberty with its 4-3 loss on Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Photo: Chris J. Day/WOUB).

The Bobcats next game will be March 12 and 13 when they take on the Lindenwood Lions, who the Bobcats lost to in their first two games of the 2021 season. Coach Bell gave the message going into those two games.

“Get up and get ready.  They’re a big rival of ours because we play them four times every year. They’re a familiar opponent; not to mention it’s going to be our last matchup at Bird this year. It’s gonna be senior night, so it’s the last game at home for a couple of the guys, so we got to be up and ready.”