When Marshall Rushing scored the second of two Oklahoma power play goals in the third period last Friday, the Sooners looked to be heading towards three straight wins for the first time this season. Stunningly, in the span of only a few minutes, the one-goal lead OU enjoyed turned into a one-goal deficit, with an empty-net goal sealing a stunning 6-4 come-from-behind victory for the Colorado State Rams.
In similar fashion to their other losses this season, the young OU squad let the pace of the game escape them, this time in heartbreaking fashion. Heading into Saturday night, the resilient Sooners looked to rebound in the same way they have all season thus far.
Once again, the Sooners carried a one-goal lead deep into the game. In contrast to the high-flying, back-and-forth affair Friday night, Saturday’s contest was more drawn out; the Sooners took a 2-1 lead early in the second period, when Rushing scored his second goal of the night and seventh of the season.
As the clock ticked down and Colorado State pulled their goaltender, the final two minutes seemed to be little more than a formality. With just over a minute to play, however, Jackson Birdsall scored for CSU to even the contest at 2-2. With all momentum having swung to their side, it only took 19 seconds for the Rams to end it in overtime.
“Every loss we’ve had, we’ve been outworked,” head coach Austin Miller said. He stressed that the team needed to find and match the pace of their competition for all 60 minutes.
Throughout the season so far, Oklahoma has enjoyed a strong offensive output, especially through their power play units. Miller praised the play of his special teams, and especially that of sophomore defenseman Cameron Bickford.
“He’s done a great job being the quarterback of our power play and has started to get rewarded for his play,” Miller said. After the series against Colorado State, Bickford has continued his nearly point-per-game pace to begin the season with six points (3 G, 3 A) in seven contests. Despite the efficiency of the power play, Miller said the team needs to also find ways to generate more scoring at even strength.
“It needs to be a bonus for us, not our only stream of offense,” he said.
Getting bodies toward the net and fighting for loose pucks will be a focus for the team moving forward, with Miller emphasizing the importance of setting the tone near the blue paint.
“There are rebounds sitting in dangerous areas,” Miller said. “Those areas around the goal are where most goals are scored. It’s not fun to go into those areas, but if we want to score, that’s where we have to go."
The Sooners now sit at 3-3-1 on the season and 0-1-1 in WCHL play. By no means is this team incapable of righting the ship and contending within the toughest conference in the ACHA. All of the pieces are in place, and with the kinks ironed out, both the team and fans can look forward to more exciting play for the rest of the year.