During a season that’s been full of frustrations for them, the Sooners were able to persevere and finish a much-needed sweep of the Colorado State Rams.
Saturday night’s game was looking all too similar to Friday night with the Sooners trailing early after a defensive zone breakdown led to a 1-0 Rams lead late in the first period. Letting lower-tier opponents hang around in games is something head coach Austin Miller criticized his team for after the 5-4 win on Friday night, so it wasn’t the start OU was looking for, but their response to the early deficit is exactly what Miller wants and expects of his team.
“That first goal, you have a defensive breakdown, it ends up in the net,” said Miller. “We responded well, took a lead and never gave it back. We weren’t going back and forth like we were on Friday night.”
A main issue for the Sooners this season has been scoring in 5-on-5 situations. In this past two game series against CSU, they scored eight times at 5-on-5, with notable success coming from their third line of Brenden Sinclair, Bailey Prouty, and Ethan McKinley.
“It’s just good teammates setting each other up,” said Prouty. “Tonight, we were lucky enough to finish and it really helped us win.”
The line was responsible for six goals on the weekend. Coach Miller has been looking for the ideal third player to pair with Sinclair and Prouty and McKinley has filled that role.
“We’ve done a bit of tinkering between those two to try and find a good guy to put with them and I think McKinley’s done a good job paired with them,” said Miller.
5-on-5 scoring coming alive is exactly what the Sooners needed all season. A successful hockey team can’t rely on the power play for the bulk of their goals.
“You need the power play to be the bonus,” said Miller. “For a lot of our games, the power play has been carrying the workload and we don’t need that. We need to be able to score at 5-on-5.”
The enthusiasm in the OU dressing room after finishing their sweep of CSU after the Rams did the same to them back in October was palpable. Winning hockey games has quite an effect on the atmosphere in the dressing room.
The Sooners now sit at 9-15-1 on the season with six games left on the schedule.
The Arizona State Sun Devils are coming to town next Friday night at 8 P.M. Catch the live stream on bdehockey.com.