Hockey: Bobcats stay ‘pumped’ for upcoming ACHA championship contests

The Bobcats celebrate during their game against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. (Daniel Kubus | Staff Photographer)

Earlier this season, senior captain Tyler Pilmore said the team’s goal was to win as many championships as possible.

Starting Saturday night in Chicago, Ohio will embark on its final opportunity to bring a title back to Athens, as the team takes on the winner of John Carroll vs. Liberty in the second round of the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championships.

But even with a national title as the ultimate goal, coach Dan Morris wants to keep his team focused on one game at a time.

“It’s one game or bust,” he said. “There are so many variables. It’s a tough thing to do, four games in five days. In the past, we’ve lost key guys in key positions and it hurts you when you need all your pistons firing in a short tournament.”

The first game will pit the Bobcats against one of two familiar opponents from earlier in the season, as Ohio has played both John Carroll and Liberty this season.

Against the Blue Streaks, the Bobcats swept the series by a margin of 10 goals. The Flames handed Ohio its first defeat of the season in October, as the Bobcats split the two-game set.

The focus for Ohio in practice this week, however, was not on the possible two opponents, but rather on improving its own game.

“We’ve played both teams before,” Morris said. “There will be some twists here and there, but for the most part, we know the matchups we want for both teams.”

For Ohio’s seniors, this weekend marks their last time suiting up in the green and white and their final opportunity to win the team’s first national title since 2004. But this year, senior forward Jonathan Pietramala has seen an increased level of enthusiasm.

“Everyone’s so pumped up,” Pietramala said. “In my four years, this is probably the most excited I’ve seen everyone for nationals. All the guys are on board, playing awesome hockey right now.”

Senior forward Jay Mazzarella said the legacy for the class of seniors, comprised of him, Pilmore, forward Nick Rostek and Pietramala, is defined by what happens in Chicago.

“I think all the seniors would agree that we don’t really care what our personal stats are,” Mazzarella said. “Everyone wants our legacy to be that we brought a national championship back to Ohio University. That’s the legacy we’re all trying to leave.”

Morris is proud of the legacy the group has left so far and will try to plug players into their roles next season, but said the group will be impossible to replace.

“You don’t (replace them),” he said. “Are you kidding me? If you look at the roles that all four of them play, they’re two opposite roles. Pilmore and Rostek don’t kill penalties, and then Pietramala and Mazzarella don’t get power-play time.”

And the group won’t only be hard to replace in terms of penalty kills and power plays. It’s the group’s humility that will be hard to replicate with future classes.

“Humble guys, we’ve got a lot of them,” Morris said. “All those guys who play those roles know their roles and what they’re supposed to do. They don’t need a pat on the back to get things done.”

And that legacy of humility and unselfishness is the exact example Pilmore wants to leave for the remaining members of the team to follow.

“I just want to be remembered as a hard worker and just a good guy,” he said. “I don’t want to be remembered as selfish, or one of those guys who thought of himself first. I just want to be remembered as a guy who cared about his teammates.”

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