Like many people in the Ohio Area, the Muskies headed to Athens, OH this past weekend; only the purpose had nothing to do with the changing leaves. Instead, the Muskies' visit to the Bobcats was seen as a measuring stick to see how far the team had progressed. During the off-season, a number of players, lead by Jake Van Oenen and Pat Riedy, wanted to add some of the premier club hockey programs to the schedule, and strive to compete with them. By any definition, OU is a first class school with a reputation as being one of the best run hockey organizations in the Midwest.
The Muskies jumped out to an early lead on Friday night thanks to power play goal by Brian Gardner, and ended the first period tied at 1 - 1. The second period was a tough one for X with numerous mental let downs and several penalties that proved costly. X trailed 4 - 2 after two periods, and never really recovered, eventually losing 6 - 2. "Very frustrating way to lose a game. It is one thing to get beat but when you don't give yourself a chance because of penalties that is tough to take" said Nate Han, team captain.
Saturday was a new day, and a chance for redemption. Coach Sperrick and Coach Barnett made some subtle but key personnel adjustments with the hopes it would add a spark. "To be honest, I felt like we could play with them but I wasn't sure where we were mentally. Our pregame routine was out of sync, we seemed disorganized, and I was concerned that we would come out flat. I could not have been more wrong" coach Driscoll stated. The first period was a back and forth battle. The Muskies once again netted the first tally early in the second period on a power play goal from Jake Van Oenen. The game remained close during the second, but X managed to build on their lead, getting scores from Jack Doyle and Pat Riedy. At the end of two periods, the score was 3 -1.
Between periods, Brett Deacy reminded the team they had been in similar situations in the past, and had not been able to hold the lead. Today would be different. Goaltender Max Poe was not going to be denied. He made countless exceptional saves, and was the difference in the game. Poe was "absolutely amazing and had incredible guts," Coach Sperrick stated. The Bobcats got within one at 4 - 3, and with their goalie pulled and Xavier down a man due to a late penalty, the final minutes of the game were intense. Pat Riedy won two huge face offs in our end, the last one with seven seconds remaining, and the victory was secured. Han summarized it this way, "epitome of a team win - total selflessness by every guy on the roster. Remarkable what happens when you play like that."