A long and physical evening produced yet another one-goal loss for the Ohio Bobcats hockey team (2-2-1) against the Liberty Flames (7-0-0), falling 1-0 while producing the fewest shots in any game this season.
The Bobcats were able to come out aggressive, with the first two minutes producing many opportunities to score. The most notable of which was freshman David Ramos with a slap shot that would find its way through the arms of goaltender Matt Pinel. It rang off the post, however, and was cleared away.
Only two minutes later, Ohio would find themselves in need of a stunning defensive effort from senior Paul Sergi. As freshman goaltender Aaron Alkema was drawn out of the net to make an impressive save, he was unable to recover back to the crease while a Liberty player found the rebound. Sergi would dive down and make the block before clearing the puck out of the zone.
“Alkema stood on his head for us,” coach Jonathan Sheridan said. “I think to come out after they scored seven on us is a good thing. Matty Hartman is going still, and I’ve been happy with him all weekend.”
Seconds later, Sergi made one of the bigger plays of the evening coming from the left side of the ice with a strong stride and driving into Steve Bellew with a ferocious hit. Bellew was slow to get up and immediately returned to his bench holding his shoulder, but returned later in the game.
“I thought we played better defensively,” Sheridan said of improvements from the previous night. “There’s still some things we need to work on. It’s a lot of small things, it’s nothing major. Just the small details that we’re not paying attention to.”
The only goal of the game came late in the first period off a questionable tripping call on freshman Mike LaFrenier. It took exactly 22 seconds for the Liberty power play, which had just finished an attempt that produced one scoring opportunity, to score the goal.
After winning the face-off, the Flames would cycle the puck behind the net and to the right side, eventually drawing three defenders out toward the right half of the ice. With only one defender left in front of the net and the offense spread out, Danny Logan made a hard saucer pass by the defender for an easy tap in by Robert Ward.
Despite that transgression, Alkema was a wall behind the Bobcats defense. The second period produced only four shots for the Bobcats, as they were pushed back into their defensive zone for most of the frame. Instead, Alkema was forced to make 18 saves in the period, and held steady through all, using his size to his advantage.
“He did great,” Sheridan said of Alkema’s play. “I don’t think we could ask more from him, and I don’t think we’d be in the spot at the end to tie it up if he wasn’t there.”
The period ended with big fireworks, as the frustration finally built to a breaking point. With a Steve Bellew charging at Diego Breckenridge and getting called for it, the two sides would erupt into a shoving match that ended in penalties assessed to another Liberty player and two penalties assessed to Derek Rahme of the Bobcats. Of those penalties was the seldom called face mask, which left the Bobcats at even strength entering the third.
In the third period, the Bobcats managed nine shots to match their first period total, while only allowing five shots against. However, they found themselves with many shots not making it to the net from the blue line and struggling to establish their offense.
During the final seven minutes of play, the Bobcats only managed two shots on goal. They were aggressive, but found no openings beyond a very strong Flames defense. Each of their shots came in the same situation, with the player carrying the puck in on the left side and lining up a snap shot that would be knocked down by the glove of Pinel.
The Bobcats will now go to the ACHA Showcase in Mentor, Ohio, playing at 2 p.m. against Colorado State on Friday, followed by matches with Navy on Saturday and Niagara on Sunday.