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Hockey: Ohio seizes championship title
In last season’s Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament final, Ohio was defeated by Lindenwood and saw the Lions’ celebration happen on the familiar ice of Bird Arena.
The Bobcats made sure that didn’t happen again this season.
Ohio won three games in as many days, including a 4-0 victory against Iowa State on Sunday, to clinch its third title in five years and give Ohio’s senior class a fond final memory of its home ice.
On Friday, the Bobcats handled Indiana 7-0 in a game that was delayed two hours because of problems with the Hoosiers’ bus. Graduate student Matt Michno started in net and stopped the 15 shots he saw.
But the man of the hour was senior forward Tyler Pilmore, who scored a goal and had two assists to pass current Ohio coach Dan Morris as the all-time point leader in Ohio history.
The feat was second to the Bobcats’ play, Pilmore said.
“(Winning) tonight is a far better feeling,” he said. “I guess it really hasn’t sunken in yet. It’s not an individual accomplishment by any means — it’s my teammates, my linemates, it’s my coach, and it’s my parents. It’s so many different people I have to thank who are a part of that record.”
Morris, whose 218 points were the previous program high, said Pilmore is plenty worthy of becoming the Bobcats’ all-time leader.
“He’s a great guy to hold the record because he sets the bar and sets the tone,” Morris said. “Here’s the greatest point getter in the history of our team, and he’s still the hardest working guy and he’s still the most humble guy.”
The Bobcats met reigning CSCHL Tournament champion Lindenwood on Saturday. They struggled early on against the Lions, as they failed to create many scoring chances in the opening period.
After falling behind 2-0 one minute into the second period, the Bobcats flipped the switch and played one of their strongest periods of the season, scoring four consecutive goals to take a 4-2 lead into the second intermission.
Ohio added another goal from junior forward Brett Agnew less than two minutes into the third period, which led to a 5-3 win — Ohio’s first victory against Lindenwood since February 2011.
The “mental block” that Morris said hindered the Bobcats against Lindenwood during the teams’ past five games was erased in the second period.
“I think the difference (between the first and second period) was that we were afraid to fail,” Pilmore said. “I think we were a little nervous. And after we got down by two, we just got comfortable and knew that we could play with them.”
In the tournament final, the Bobcats met Iowa State, which had defeated Robert Morris 2-0 and CSCHL regular season champion Illinois 4-0 in its previous two games.
After falling behind 3-0 midway through the third period, Iowa State coach Alan Murdock pulled junior goalie Matthew Cooper in a last-ditch effort to get back in the game. The plan backfired on the Cyclones, as Ohio senior forward Jonathan Pietramala flung a shot from mid-ice into the back of the net to ice the game and crush the Cyclones’ championship aspirations.
“(Pilmore) threw that nice pass, I saw the opening and I just knew we had the win after that,” Pietramala said. “The boys played great, and it was a great way to seal it in our last game at Bird Arena.”
Michno returned to the net Sunday after junior Fedor Duskin manned the pipes against Lindenwood. He shut out the Cyclones on 33 shots and earned the tournament’s MVP honor.
Most of the praise for the championship lies within Ohio’s senior class, Morris said, as it molded a team with 15 new players into a championship squad.
“I give a lot of credit to our seniors for teaching them what it takes to win a championship,” Morris said. “You have to experience those things if you want to win, whether it’s a league championship or a national championship.”