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Hockey: ’Cats remain resilient during bumpy season
In a season that is often described as a roller-coaster ride, the 2011 Ohio hockey team might be most remembered for its ability to respond each time its season took a turn for the worse.
After beginning the season with high expectations, the Bobcats got off to a slow start losing four of their first seven games.
“There were a lot of different situations that resulted in our slow start,” coach Dan Morris said. “There were a lot of adjustments as far as leadership. It wasn’t the way we wanted to start the season, but I think we were a better team because of it.”
After losing three of their first six games, the Bobcats traveled to Penn State for a two-game series against the Icers in late October. The Bobcats dropped the first game 3-1, and faced a one-goal deficit midway through the first period of game two.
But Ohio responded with five unanswered goals and defeated the Icers 6-3. From that point, the Bobcats would go on to win 18 of their next 19 games.
“I think it was a confidence thing for us,” Morris said. “Both the players and the coaching staff knew we had a good team. We just had to get over that hump and play differently. That game was definitely one of the pivotal points of the season.”
Ohio hit another rough patch late in the season, losing three out of four games including consecutive losses to Lindenwood.
But the Bobcats again responded to the adversity — this time in the form of seven straight wins including a 4-0 win against Lindenwood in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament Finals.
For the first time since September 2007, Ohio was forced to work in a new starting goaltender.
The loss of 2010 ACHA Player of the Year Paul Marshall opened the door for Blake MacNicol, a University of Alabama-Huntsville transfer.
Morris said it’s always tough for a team to adjust to a new goaltender, but it was even tougher for MacNicol to adjust to a new system.
“We play a certain style of game where as a goalie you’re not going to get a lot of work,” Morris said. “We like to keep the shots at about 20 or less, and he came from a program where he was seeing 30 or 40 shots a night. But I thought Blake did a great job stepping in, and I thought our young goalies learned a lot from Blake this year as well.”
For Morris, the CSCHL Tournament Championship was the fourth in his tenure as head coach and something he said the team can build upon heading into next season.
“We set goals every year and then we try to achieve those goals,” Morris said. “We want to win our regular season title, we want to win our conference tournament and we want to win a national championship. We accomplished one of three, but the experience we gained this year will be valuable moving forward.”