Ohio State is headed to the NCAA Frozen Four for just the second time in history after knocking off defending national champion Denver 5-1 on Sunday night in the Midwest regional final in Allentown, Pa.
Kevin Miller was a major factor with two goals – both off passes from Christian Lampasso – as the Buckeyes controlled the game primarily with their defense while getting timely offensive thrusts. It’s the same formula they’ve used all season, and now it’s taking them to the Frozen Four on April 5 in St. Paul, Minn.
“It’s a been a journey and a process, and sometimes you forget to enjoy it,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said after praising his team’s resilience. “These guys come to work every day … and I couldn’t be more proud of this group, 27 guys pulling the chain together. And that’s what you saw again tonight.”
That made sure the Frozen Four will be a Big Ten jamboree, because earlier, conference members Notre Dame, the league regular-season and tournament champion, and Michigan earned their way in with regional victories. While the Fighting Irish and Wolverines will meet in one semifinal, in the other Ohio State will take on Minnesota-Duluth, the team that knocked the Buckeyes out of the NCAA Tournament a year ago in the first round.
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Against Denver, the Buckeyes did their scoring in the last two periods after the teams played to a scoreless first. Dakota Joshua broke the ice with a blind backhand flick from in front of Denver’s stellar goalie Tanner Jaillet, who seemed to never see it 3:51 into the second.
“It was just kind of a backhand hoping for something to happen, and it did,” Joshua said
Eight minutes later Miller and Lampasso teamed up for the first time, the Lampasso pass coming from behind the net to Miller who shrugged off a defender to finish.
OSU pushed the lead to 3-0 at 9:27 into the third when Matt Joyaux converted in front on a pass from Tannere Laczynski. Laczynski had made a steal on the defensive end and skated straight up the side before making the crossing assist.
After Denver’s only goal – OSU’s Sean Romeo had 30 saves on a night when the defense also had 19 blocks – the Miller-Lampasso duo answered again. It came 11:51 into the third and provoked Denver to take drastic measures a couple of minutes later, pulling goalie Jaillet in favor of pressing the attack.
That backfired with just under six minutes to play when OSU captain Mason Jobst snared a loose puck and wristed it three-quarters the length of the rink for the goal that truly iced the win.