Ohio State gained its first victory in 20 years in the NCAA men's hockey tournament on Saturday, scoring two goals within 20 seconds of each other in the first period on the way to a dominating 4-2 victory over Princeton in the Midwest Regional in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The win pushed the Buckeyes, a No. 1 regional seed for the first time in program history, into the regional title game at 6:30 p.m. Sunday against Denver, which defeated Penn State in the nightcap. A spot in the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 5 will be on the line.
“Certainly we are excited to be able to continue to move on,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “We got a few good bounces tonight and it was nice to get the lead. We are a better hockey team when we get the lead, and I thought our guys did just enough tonight to get the win.”
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Those lead-staking goals came in a flurry. Captain Mason Jobst scored the first, off a pass from Tanner Laczynski 13:32 into the first period. Twenty seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Kevin Miller converted in close on a pass from the right corner from Ronnie Hein, and suddenly the Buckeyes were in control.
“Last couple games we haven’t started the hottest and that’s something we addressed all week, that we wanted to come out and win the first five minutes,” said Jobst, who notched his 20th goal of the season. “I certainly think we did that. Our record shows when we score first we’re a very good team, and to come out and get two goals in the first period gave us a lot of confidence for the rest of the game.”
The Buckeyes pushed the lead to 4-0 with third-period goals by Laczynski and Freddy Gerard.
And just when goalie Sean Romeo appeared to be cruising to a shutout against the No. 3 scoring team in the nation, Princeton got its two goals in the last 26 seconds of the game. The first, by Matt Nelson, came on a power play.
Princeton, champion of the East Coast Athletic Conference, entered with the nation’s top-scoring power-play unit while Ohio State was No. 1 in penalty kill. The Buckeyes prevailed in that matchup, killing six of Princeton’s seven advantage situations, including over a minute of 5-on-3 that ended the first period and opened the second.
“Number one, you have to have confidence, and our guys have a lot of confidence to go out there and that’s how you have to play” on the penalty kill, Rohlik said. “I really thought we were on our toes, we had good sticks, we won faceoffs, and again, our biggest thing was let’s not let them set up. Let’s be the aggressors, and it seemed to work for us.”
The Buckeyes, runners-up in the Big Ten to Notre Dame this season, previously had just two NCAA wins in the 55-year history of the program. Both came in 1998 when they won the West regional and advanced to the Frozen Four, where they lost in the semis to Boston College. Now they are a step away from a return to the Final Four.