It took nearly 15 minutes for the first goal, but from then on the onslaught never stopped as the Ohio Bobcats (28-7-2) defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers (12-10-5) by a score of 8-1.
The offenses finally started with a simple tap in goal by Garrett Williams off a hard and tight pass by Logan Pfeffer that was nearly waved off until the officials convened and agreed the puck went in before any interference on the goaltender.
“They both played great,” coach Jonathan Sheridan said. “I think Pfeff’s really stepped up his game the past couple weeks. Willy almost didn’t make it to the game, so he better have played well or else he wasn’t going to be playing tomorrow. He had a little trouble with traffic, issues coming back with his kid, but they played excellent. I can’t speak highly enough for the way Pfeff’s been finishing up the year, so hopefully he keeps it going a little bit longer.”
In just a minute after that, Tom Whetsel found himself behind the net operating out of the office like Wayne Gretzky used to. He found Joe Breslin sneaking into the slot for a nifty one-timer goal.
To end the first period, the Bobcats put in yet another goal off a well orchestrated fake by Brett Agnew. J.C. Gulch sent the puck along the blue line to Mike Kretz, who surveyed the ice and sent a pass to the opposite corner for Agnew. He faked a shot to make the goaltender do a split and simply roofed it without a problem.
Early on, the second period had a few big chances, but nothing seemed to come together. This is best illustrated by a three-on-one about six minutes in where Matt Hartman rifled the shot just wide of the net. Meanwhile they gave up a few chances back in their own end, but Aaron Alkema was staunch in his return after sustaining a head injury against Robert Morris two weeks ago.
“He looked good,” Sheridan said. “He was a little shaky. It was good to see him get roughed up a little bit to see how he was going to respond, and I think he responded well. So it looks like he’s going to be back and ready to go for us.”
Never worrying, the Bobcats were steadfast and with just under seven minutes remaining in the period, a turnover gave them a similar look. With David Ramos carrying the puck on the right side on the three-on-two, he faked to Whetsel and dropped it back to Breslin coming into the slot. Breslin launched the puck past the blocker of Matthew Schmidlin without giving him a chance to make a save.
The Bobcats added another goal a few minutes later off a sharp angle shot along the goal line from Nathan De La Torre. The puck would go in off the skate of the goaltender as he came just off the post and gave the Bobcats a 5-0 lead.
It couldn’t last forever, though. With just 36 seconds remaining in the period, Cole Snyder stole the puck behind the Bobcats net from Tyler Benson, losing his edge and the puck. He put the puck in front for a bang-bang play and Brian Stein punched the puck five-hole for a goal making it 5-1 to end the period.
Both teams surprisingly survived 40 minutes of play without being penalized, but it wouldn’t last through the third period. Just over a minute into the period, the first penalty of the game was called on Kretz, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize on the power play.
Just over four minutes left in the game, Kretz launched a shot from the left side that left a juicy rebound in the slot. Breslin capitalized and fired the puck into the back of the net for a hat trick goal. This was his first hat trick of his career, though he sadly wouldn’t be keeping the puck afterward.
“Bressy’s been going for us the entire year, so it’s kind of nice to have him get his hat trick and get a little reward for it,” Sheridan said. “Funny, you know, after you get your first goal you get the puck or whatever. Same thing with your first hat trick. The guys didn’t grab his puck, so I was telling everyone to grab his puck and it’s the puck that’s stuck in the rafters. So I told him we got that nice orange ladder over there to go grab it, we’ll see if he does.”
About three minutes later, Williams scored his second of the evening with a good cut in behind the defense and another tap in from De La Torre and Pfeffer. They would score again two minutes later with Nicholas Hudek getting the goal off assists from Adam Steranko and Vincent Nicolella.
As time wound down both teams took a penalty, leaving the total for the game at three combined. The Bobcats led in shots 41-20 and took home the big 8-1 victory. They’ll play their final game of the regular season on Saturday evening once again against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Bird Arena.