From The Athens Messenger
By Allan Brown
Coming off a disappointing loss to Adrian Thursday, the Ice ‘Cats put a muzzle on that same Bulldogs hockey team Friday night and dashed the visitor’s perfect regulation record in the process.
It was anything but an ordinary night at Bird Arena Friday.
And at the end of the evening, the white-hot OU Bobcats Hockey team had more than just a few reasons to celebrate.
Not the least of which was a 4-2 win against the Adrian Bulldogs, the number three team in the country in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Men’s Division I hockey rankings.
On the eve of the Athens Halloween Block Party, there was a celebratory mood, complete with many fans in costume, readying for the weekend’s festivities that would continue into Monday night’s trick or treat in the city.
As for the Ice ‘Cats, the upcoming holiday festivities may not have been uppermost in their minds at the start of the night, but by the end of it, they could add that to a myriad of reasons for them to celebrate in their own right.
Following a 4-2 loss to that same Adrian team in Michigan on Thursday night, OU’s determined and gritty squad controlled Friday’s contest from start to finish.
OU got on the board first on Friday with a Jack Glen goal a little more than halfway through the period. Assists on that beauty came from Laker Aldridge and Blake Rossi. Adrian tied the score before the end of that stanza, but except for one more Bulldogs’ goal – when OU was already up by two in the third – it was pretty much all Bobcats after that.
It was a duo of one timers in the second period that had put OU back on top to stay.
A power play goal from Laker Aldridge, with an assist from stats leader Luc Reeve, made it 2-1 about five and half minutes into that stanza. Rossi made it 3-1 about eight minutes later. The home team scoring wrapped up with 38 seconds left in the contest, with Aldridge’s second score of the night, an empty-net wrister from the red.
Assists on the last two goals came from Andrew Sacca and Aiden Grieco on score number three and Captain Sam Turner on the empty netter.
Aldridge’s feats Friday certainly merited him his number two star of the game. And the only thing that kept him from getting the number one honor was a stellar birthday-night performance between the pipes from Justin Damon.
With a complete team attack all night, another reason the good guys got the W was the performance in net from Damon, who had three reasons to celebrate Friday evening: one, of course was the win, the second was being named the first star of the game, and not to bury the lead, but thirdly all of this came on his 23rd birthday. Damon staved off 15 of 17 Bulldogs’ shots to net the win.
If reasons one and two weren’t enough for the Bobcats on skates to be celebrating, add this stat to the mix: In back-to-back games against Adrian, OU was able to hold the Bulldogs to a total of six goals and outshot the Michigan squad, 55-47, including 21-17 in Friday night’s win.
Entering the two-game series with OU, the Bulldogs had outscored their opponents by a punishing 80-goal margin, having had only allowed 11 goals total in their first 10 games.
OU handed the Bulldogs their first regulation loss of the season. The Bobcats upped their season record to 8-2 with the victory.
Despite the loss on Thursday, the Bobcats had nothing to hang their heads in shame about.
OU outshot Adrian 34-30 in that game and, after a scoreless first, the Bobcats were first on the board with a Luc Reeve goal 34 seconds into the second stanza. A Glen power play goal – with an assist from Reever – with 5:13 left in the third finished the scoring for them in Thursday night’s contest. However, four Adrian goals in that second period had already sealed the Ice ‘Cats fate for the night.
Goaltender Max Karlenzig took the loss with an .867 save percentage in the game. OU was 1 for 5 on the power play Thursday, while the Bulldogs were 1 for 4. Senior JT Schimizzi played his 100th game with the Bobcats in that contest.
While pleased with his team’s play both nights, Bobcats Head Coach Lionel Mauron praised the Bulldogs for their speed and taking advantages of miscues that cost OU the game on Thursday.
“They were fast in transition, and they caused a lot of issues flying their wingers in between our defensemen. They scored that way twice on Friday, a little bit of miscommunication and lack of anticipation on our end and we were chasing the game from behind. I thought we were the better team this weekend, but we struggled to play a full 60 minutes both nights. Against an opportunistic team, it cost us the game on Thursday,” Mauron said.
The coach said defense was a key cog in his strategy for Friday night’s game.
“We really tried to emphasize the importance of our defensemen staying inside the face off dots and one forward higher in the offensive zone to stay on top of their speed. That helped in taking their transition away and we were able to spend more time in their end,” he said.
“On Friday, we started the game very well and I think we were able to dictate the pace of the play from puck drop. They pushed back hard in the second half, and we took a few penalties after the whistle, the momentum changed a little bit, but we were able to keep our composure defensively and limit their scoring chances. We have a strong D-core, we can skate and move the puck. We want to play with possession, and we take pride in managing the puck. You can’t score without the puck,” Mauron added.
Although the Bobcats are off to a fast start this season, Mauron cautions that there are some key elements to his team that he wants to focus on and continue to improve on.
“It (the series) shows that we have improved since last year, but this is still very early, I don’t think it changes our mindset. We’ve been confident since the start of the season, we realize that we still have some big holes we need to fill, especially being consistent throughout the whole game. But overall, we are exactly where we want to be so far this season, and we want to keep building ourselves up until March.”
Mauron praised his goaltender and noted that he’s certain the team took time to celebrate the win and enjoy the weekend’s festivities.
“With Halloween weekend in Athens, I am sure the guys have celebrated plenty. Damon has been a fantastic addition to our team, he is not only a good hockey goalie, but also a great character in the room,” Mauron said.
Reasons Four and Five:
Following Thursday’s trip up North, the Ice ‘Cats began a long home stand that doesn’t see them on the road until mid-February. Hoping to Pack the Bird during that long stretch would give OU a psychological advantage that Mauron hopes his players take advantage of.
The Bobcats take on a 7-5 West Virginia squad at Bird this Friday and Saturday and Mauron is taking nothing for granted, stressing several areas he will have the team work on during this week’s practices.
“We need better habits in practice, and I want to see ultimate competition from Monday until Thursday. We lack consistency in games, we need to solve this quickly and it can only be done with hard work. When we are winning, the players are a little more excited to come to the rink every day, we want to take advantage of it to increase the workload.
“West Virginia is a program on the rise, since they hired their current coach. He has done some good recruiting and I expect a hard-fought series. They play with speed, and they have some players who can use their skill to create offense. I want to work on applying a lot of pressure on that team and show more mental toughness that we have in the past weeks.”
Puck drop for both games against the Mountaineers is 7 p.m.
Having had Saturday off gives OU an extra advantage heading into the West Virginia series that Mauron intends to take advantage of.
“It gives us an extra day of practice every week, which at this point of the year, is very beneficial. We want to be careful about not burning the guys out, it is easy to get used to the routine and get tired. We love playing at Bird Arena, we have had amazing support from the fans so far and I hope everybody can see the success we are having and will want to come to the games,” Mauron said.
Of note, the first Men’s D1 computer rankings for the young season will be released Wednesday, but Mauron is more focused on winning, rather than poll numbers.
“The first computer ranking is always a big question mark. So far, the coaches poll spotted us at #7, but you never know what will happen once the maths kick in. Honestly, I have never been someone who worries about the rankings. If we keep improving, we will keep getting positive results, and we’ll keep climbing.”
(Originally published at https://www.athensmessenger.com/sports/ice-cats-get-impressive-win-over-adrian-hockey-team/article_b07fa078-5923-11ed-b6d5-4f42ea94b0a7.html)