[Andrew Bowlby | WOUB]

Ohio Hockey avoids a late scare to earn a senior night victory

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – Ohio Hockey (28-5-2) earned a physical victory over the Niagara Purple Eagles (22-8-1) to cap off the regular season and put a bow on its senior night.

Posters honoring Ohio seniors lined the entrance of Bird Arena as a couple Bobcats skated out onto the ice one last time.

“Four years here goes a lot faster than you think,” senior captain Sam Turner said. “It’s an emotional night. It’s difficult to play on a night like that but I’m glad we were able to get it done.”

The difficulty to focus showed early. The Bobcats struggled capitalizing in the first 10 minutes of the first period allowing Niagara to hang around. Ohio had three power plays in the first period but came away with zero goals in that time. 

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on outside of the rink,” head coach Lionel Mauron said. “It’s energy draining and we saw that today.” 

Senior defenseman Ryan Hastings provided some energy with five minutes remaining in the period. Hastings collected a pass from Phil Angervil and fired one into the back of the net to give the Bobcats an early edge. 

Ohio held onto that one score lead to close the first period. It was a clean sheet for backup goalie Justin Damon who stopped eight shots on goal.

Ohio forward John McLaughlin (11) controls the puck against the Niagara Purple Eagles
Ohio forward John McLaughlin (11) controls the puck against the Niagara Purple Eagles [Alex Eicher | WOUB]
Out of the break, the Purple Eagles came out firing. They utilized their size and physicality to generate many looks at the net. Damon continued to shine and the Bobcats pushed on the counter. With 13 minutes left in the second, junior Aiden Grieco doubled Ohio’s lead to take a commanding 2-0 lead. 

The Bobcats continued to pour it on in the second when Tommy Kloepfer finished an unassisted goal to take full control over the game, 3-0. 

But Niagara did not go away that easy. With 14 minutes of hockey left to play the Purple Eagles got onto the scoreboard to make things interesting. 

Ohio responded just 17 seconds later when senior Andrew Wells picked up the rebound and fired it past the goalie. However, just after the score, Ohio incurred a crucial penalty to shift the momentum once again. 

“The issue we had was both times we scored we took a penalty at the same time,” Mauron said. “That kind of killed our momentum. But as far as bouncing back after that goal, it was huge. The guys really stepped up.” 

Niagara added two more scores later in the frame but it was too little too late as the Bobcats escaped with a 4-3 victory to close out the season.

Now, Ohio Hockey sets its sights on a run in the ACHA National Championship. The Bobcats have only lost one game in regulation since November, heading into the tournament with momentum. 

“We have beaten every team we have played,” Turner said. “We know we have a real shot and we have two weeks to buckle down. I think we are doing all the right things. Lio has us on the right path, ending the season with two wins against a top ten team gives us some momentum going into the playoffs.”

Mauron says the team is clicking on both sides of the ice. 

“We know we are tough to beat,” he said. “We’re strong defensively and we know we have some players who can score pretty much every shift. We feel pretty good going into the tournament, hopefully we can make some noise.”

The ACHA National Championship kicks off March 16.