And on to round two for the Ohio University Men's D1 hockey team.
In what was a virtual chess match on ice both defensively and between the pipes, OU escaped with a 1-0 win over Illinois State Friday evening in Marlborough, MA to advance to the next round of the American Collegiate Hockey Association's National Championship tournament.
The No. 2-ranked Bobcats will on Sunday play the winner of Saturday's Jamestown/Niagara game. Puck drop for Sunday's contest is 4:45 p.m. OU did not play Jamestown this year, but swept the Purple Eagles in two home games to close out the 2022-23 regular season at Bird Arena last month.
The Redbirds, ranked 15th in the ACHA final regular season computer rankings, dominated Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 9-1, Thursday to advance to Friday's contest vs. OU.
And those same Redbirds brought their A-game Friday against the favored Bobcats.
ISU was able to hold the usually high-shooting Bobcats to just seven shots on goal in the first, while they had eight.
The OU that Bobcats faithful were accustomed to in the regular season took control of the SOG stat in the second, outshooting ISU, 18-10, to take a 25-18 lead in that statistic, but there was still no score.
And no Redbirds' penalties, either, as the Bobcats spent four minutes in the penalty box but the OU penalty kill held off any ISU scoring. Both Phil Angervil and later Ryan Hastings received roughing calls in the second to give Illinois State a man advantage that they weren't able to capitalize on.
It was still knotted at zero heading into the third stanza, but the underdog Redbirds could only hold off the generally high-octane OU offense for so long.
A mere 1:12 into the third, the Bobcats leading scorer of the regular season, Luc Reeve, put the good guys on the board. In a familiar scene to OU followers, Reeve's freshman forward counterpart, Laker Aldridge - along with Hollander Thompson - got the assist on the score.
A Sam Salemi ISU tripping penalty gave OU its only power play of the game and while the Bobcats didn't get a goal on their PP, they didn't need it.
Bobcats netminder Justin Damon staved off 23 ISU shots to get the win in net, while Redbirds' goalie Brendan Donovan stood almost as tall between the pipes, blocking 39 of 40 OU shots.
Following the game, OU Head Coach Lionel Mauron explained to the Athens Messenger what his strategy was to get the win and stay alive in the tournament.
"We moved our lines around a little bit in the third but mostly the guys started moving their feet a lot more and we started playing our style towards the end," Mauron said.
He added that despite the difference in rankings between OU and the Redbirds, he knew ISU would be a tough competitor.
"I was definitely expecting a hard fought battle. We had to shake off the three weeks without games. It was great to see we were able to find a way to win," he said.
As for what the team needs to do to get a win on Sunday, Mauron said: "We need to play with more intensity and effort without the puck. We didn't move our feet enough tonight."
Senior D-man Blake Rossi explained what the squad did to get the win and keep ISU from getting a goal.
"For defense we just simplified our game. They loved just chipping the puck out and flying the zone. We stayed between the dots and forced them on the outside. Damon played amazing and is the sole reason why we won that game," Rossi said.
The defenseman also gave credit to the OU supporters in the arena for adding to the team's confidence and resolve as a major key to the Bobcats getting the win.
"The OU fans contributed a lot," Rossi said, noting that "There were so many compared to the other team. Having a fan base that has so much passion and will travel so far for us is amazing. They started the OU chant during the game - it was unforgettable."
More updates and player reactions from the OU win will be posted online when they are available and in Tuesday's print edition of The Athens Messenger. Coverage of Sunday's game will be found online immediately following the conclusion of the contest.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.