The fifth-ranked Ohio Bobcats hockey team (0-1) opened their first season under new head coach Jonathan Sheridan in disappointing fashion, losing 5-4 in overtime to the No. 22 John Carroll Bluestreaks (1-0).
“It was fun,” said coach Sheridan after the game. “We played hard. John Carroll is a good team, they came out ready to play. We have some areas to work on, but I’m proud of the boys for coming back and forcing overtime.”
Opening the game, the Bluestreaks used a strong forecheck to their advantage. With no defenders beyond the center line, they forced the Bobcats into their own zone for the first five minutes of the game. Eventually, the Bobcats would use their frequent passing behind their own net to draw a defender into a poor position and find their opening.
The Bobcats opened the scoring nine minutes into the action when a hard hitting battle in the corner gave way to freshman David Ramos. Ramos then jettisoned the puck from the corner across the crease for a tap-in one-timer from sophomore Michael Harris before the goaltender was even able to get off the post.
John Carroll would strike back quickly though, as they scored three straight against the Bobcats. Nearing the 13 minute mark, Bluestreaks freshman Kevin Vinyard was able to take the lead with a good bounce off the sideboards in the neutral zone and an incredible burst of speed. Vinyard would take a breakaway opportunity to the left side while defenders recovered and beat Scott Boyd cleanly with a top-shelf wrist shot past the glove hand.
Vinyard would attack the slow glove again just over two minutes later when he was able to receive the pass in the middle of the ice and push forward through the defense. With an aggressive deke between the legs of the defender and splitting two others, he found himself one-on-one with Boyd once again. He fired a similar shot to his earlier goal and put the Bluestreaks up by two in the first period.
After allowing three goals on just four shots, the Bobcats came roaring out to the second period ready to challenge the 3-2 lead and force the goaltender, Justin Camuto, to work. The Bobcats found themselves with multiple opportunities slipping away, however, with the puck getting lost in their skates or out of reach in scrums.
“We have a young team,” commented coach Sheridan. “I think it’s a good learning lesson for us. It’s the first game of the year, so it’s not the end of the world. We worked hard, we did what we wanted to do. Unfortunately, they put in more than us.”
John Carroll would score first off of a rebound, but only seemed to light a fire under the Bobcats. Less than a minute after allowing the score they found the back of the net. The first line took the lead with freshmen Patrick Spellacy and Joe Breslin took to the cycle in the right corner. Breslin took it to the half boards and found Spellacy in a cut toward the net with a hard pass for the tap in just over the pad and under the armpit to make it a one-goal game once again.
“Early in the year we let the guys figure out who they want to play with early on and they kind of stepped out right away,” said coach Sheridan on his top line. “They have the same style of play, Spellacy and Agnew are very similar. Breslin works hard in the corners, and that line works well together.”
The Bobcats were unable to take advantage of the miscues of the opposing goaltending and the defense for the rest of the period. The last big chance came with just over two minutes remaining in the period as sophomore Derek Rahme, formerly a defender, took the puck up the left side to the face-off dot and fired off a rocket of a slap shot that beat Camuto’s glove, but it rang off the crossbar.
Entering the third with just their second home regulation loss in a calendar year on the line, the Bobcats created heavy pressure on the Bluestreaks. They would find themselves in an unlucky position, as many opportunities while the goaltender was on the ground would sail just wide of the net.
The only goal of the third came just over twelve minutes in as junior Mike Kretz held the puck to the left side of the net amongst a host of defenders. He would drop the puck to Breslin standing just behind the net, who used his 6’3” frame to reach far around the net and barely get the puck past the toe of Camuto to tie the game.
As time wound down both teams were able to find big opportunities. None were bigger than sophomore Nick Hudeck entering the zone from the left fresh off a line change and receiving the pass. He fired off a heavy slap shot that navigated through traffic and forced a split from Camuto to make the catch and force overtime. With the home crowd getting louder as time passed, the Bobcats seemed to finally steal momentum away despite leading only at the start of the game.
“Any time you have 50 shots for you, it’s a good thing,” said coach Sheridan. “But when the guy stops 49 or something, it’s tough to win.”
Within a few minutes of overtime, the Bobcats found themselves in the familiar position of offensive aggression. But they were unable to capitalize, and would find themselves nearing the end of the overtime seemingly in desperation mode against the Bluestreaks. They would have a costly turnover just nearing the final minute of play, giving the puck to John Carroll captain Sean McHugh.
McHugh took it up the left side and challenged the defender, getting half a step around him then diving to fire off a shot that lifted just over Boyd’s glove for the game winning goal with 1:07 left to play.
“I think all our guys played well. Our young guys especially came out and worked hard for us and that’s what we were looking for,” commented coach Sheridan. “There’s a lot of nerves for those guys, coming into Ohio and playing. I think they did a good job of it. I think our whole team played hard, so I’m happy with our team. There’s some things we have to tweak tomorrow and come out and play hard tomorrow.”
The Bobcats finished with 51 shots on goal to John Carroll’s 18, but were unable to beat the stellar play of John Camuto. Their physical play, led by David Ramos’s five hits, would prove to be unable to take the first game of the Jon Sheridan era. They will return to Bird Arena on Saturday to once again take on the Bluestreaks.