Ohio Hockey Prepares for ACHA Championship
Ohio Bobcats Hockey battles against Liberty at Bird Arena on February 8, 2021 (Photo: Chris J. Day/WOUB)

Ohio Bobcats Hockey Playoff Preview: Putting it All to the Test

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From 1-12-0 to Fifth Overall Seed

After losing 12 of their first 13 games, the Ohio Bobcats hockey team won three of their five remaining regular season games and won one of their two CSHL playoff games to end the season with a 5-15-0 record.

At a first glance, a 5-15-0 record wouldn’t translate to a high seed in the ACHA National Championships this upcoming weekend, however, the Bobcats were awarded the fifth seed of 16 teams. Now, you might be asking yourself “how is that fair that a team with five wins is the fifth overall seed in this tournament?”

That’s a very valid question, however, strength of schedule was probably a huge factor in how the teams were seeded for this tournament. Adrian College, Robert Morris University, Lindenwood University, and Liberty University were the four teams to be seeded higher than Ohio. 18 of Ohio’s 20 regular season and CSHL playoff games were against these top teams in the ACHA.

The tougher regular season combined with adjusting to the new COVID-19 restrictions and new players could be to blame for Ohio’s slow start, but that is a thing of the past as the Bobcats come into the national tournament playing some of their best hockey of the season.

It has truly been a whole team effort as improvements have been made all around. In their last six games, the Bobcats are outscoring their opponents 28-19 including two shutouts. Max Karlenzig got the first shutout of the season on March 12 in a 3-0 win over Lindenwood, and Matt Server got the second shutout of the season four days later in a 11-0 win over Mercyhurst.

The offense has found its scoring touch after a midseason slump and the defense has been making Karlenzig and Server’s job much easier by creating clear shooting lanes. If the Bobcats can keep playing like they have been these last seven games, they could be in for a long stay in Chesterfield, Missouri, which is the host city of this year’s tournament.

Drew Magyar (23) celebrates a goal in Ohio’s win over Lindenwood on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Photo: Chris J. Day/WOUB).

A Long Tournament Run Will Put Stamina to the Test

If the Bobcats intend on leaving Missouri as ACHA National Champions, they’ll need to win four games in four days. While it averages out to one game per day, it isn’t an easy task considering the physically demanding nature of the sport of hockey. Earlier this season, the Bobcats had to play four games in a five-day span. Considering that Saturday’s game will be Ohio’s first game in three weeks, they should be well rested in time for their game.

The field for the ACHA tournament is set for 16 teams. A traditional format takes place for the opening two rounds, meaning if Ohio beat the 12-seed, Missouri State, they will play the winner of the matchup between the 4-seed and 13-seed.

Here is where things get interesting. The four remaining teams get re-seeded for the semi-final games, meaning the lowest remaining seed plays the highest remaining seed. If Ohio were to make it to the semi-finals, there would be a strong chance that they would play Adrian College, the top seed of the tournament, pending on any major upsets.

The most likely path the Bobcats would take to be crowned champions would result in them having to beat three of the four teams seeded above them assuming no major upsets happen along the way. It will definitely be a tall task for this Ohio Bobcats team, however before they can think of that, they have to focus on Missouri State in their first-round matchup.  A full preview of that game coming tomorrow.