WEST ORANGE — Ohio’s quick-strike offense is second to none.
Rutgers held Ohio at bay through two periods, trailing the second-ranked team in the nation by just one entering the third and final frame, but there was simply no denying wave after wave of green gold that flowed through the neutral zone.
Joe Breslin and Tyler Harkins gave Ohio University a two-goal lead, but Brian Gnad slashed that deficit in half during a strong second period for Rutgers before the second-ranked team in ACHA Division-I hockey exploded for four goals in the third period, including two in a span of 40 seconds, en route to a 6-1 triumph over #25 Rutgers at Codey Arena in West Orange.
Nursing a 2-1 lead after two, Harkins notched his second of the game just 2:32 into the third and linemate Mike Palasics hit again less than a minute later as the Bobcats’ quick-strike finally broke through the Ice Knights’ defense. Ohio University (21-4-1) wasn’t finished either as Liam Geither and Cody Black also connected to add fuel to the fire during a four-goal outburst that saw the Bobcats rip 25 shots on goal in the period.
“We’re a team that’s not going to give up on each other or get down on each other. We have each other’s backs through thick and thin,” said Harkins, who scored twice and set up another.
“We just stuck together. I think our line — Gianni Evangelisti and Mike Palasics — we try to bring it to the table every night,” the freshman said. “We went out and did our jobs and took care of business.”
After firing 20 blanks in the second period, Ohio was determined to let its play do the talking in the third.
“Once the third period came around we knew we had to punch it up a gear,” junior forward Mike Palasics added.
“Our (quick-strike) offense is definitely something we’re known for — we’ve done that a lot. But at the same time, we get a little complacent and sit back. I think as we get down to the playoffs we’re going to turn it on.”
Rutgers (10-10-1) got a strong game from goaltender Chris Marsillo, who stood tall with 48 saves. Matt Langlois and Tyler Mishchenko each drew assists on Gnad’s goal that made it a 2-1 game with 5:28 to go in the second period.
“It was a one-goal game going into the third,” Marsillo, who had 27 saves through two frames, said. “They got a couple bounces going their way, they had a little more depth, but it was a good opportunity for a #25 to play a #2. We’ll move forward and try to tighten it up and I think we’ll be alright.”
“They’re a great team. There were times in the game we showed we could play with them but when you make mistakes, they capitalize,” Gnad said. “Going into the third it was a one-goal game but next thing you know they pop in three or four quick ones.”
For Rutgers, which saw head coach Martin Bernstein step down earlier this season, it was an impressive performance nonetheless against one of the top teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Rutgers had won three of its last four entering the weekend.
“We’ve got to rebound,” Gnad, who lines up alongside Kevin Fitch and C.J. Maksut, added. “Hopefully we can win out from here and make a run at Nationals.”
For Ohio, which completed the sweep with an 8-5 triumph over Rutgers on Friday, it was another good test for the team on the road. Senior goaltender Aaron Alkema finished with 17 saves for the Bobcats which are now 8-2 over its last 10 games and 6-1-1 away from Bird Arena in Athens.
“A long road trip but anytime to you get two wins on the road like that it’s a good feeling,” Alkema said. “It was real tight to start but we finally got separation and showed they way we wanted to play in the third.
“The guys played real well. We’re just trying to keep our legs moving and stay sharp.”
John Christian Hageny