Ohio State men's hockey blasts Harvard 8-1 in NCAA Tournament regional semifinal
Steve Rohlik knew what he wanted Ohio State men’s hockey to look like in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2019.
The Ohio State coach called on his team to look like it had all season — a “structured” unit that aimed to play “downhill.” It didn’t matter about the opponent. The Buckeyes’ game plan remains steadfast.
And against Harvard in the regional semifinal of the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State’s game plan blew Harvard out, beating the Crimson 8-1 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for a date with Quinnipiac on Sunday. The winner advances to the Frozen Four.
Ohio State prepared for deep run:'It's do or die': Ohio State men's hockey returns to NCAA Tournament prepared for deep run
The Buckeyes got two goals apiece form Cole McWard and Cam Thiesing. Others scoring goals were Gustaf Westlund, Mason Lohrei, Joe Dunlap and Patrick Guzzo, while Jake Wise recorded a team-leading four points on four assists.
"We were just relentless, and they believed and when you put that stuff together it's pretty powerful," Rohlik said.
Ohio State finished with a 40-22 shot advantage against Harvard.
Gustaf Westlund's return sets tone for Ohio State men's hockey
Ahead of Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament opener, it returned a veteran piece to its lineup.
Westlund, who was limited to five games in 2022-23 due to a lower body injury, returned for his first game since October.
Westlund is one of three players on the Buckeyes’ roster who have been on rosters for past NCAA Tournaments, along with Kamil Sodlocha, who redshirted during the Buckeyes’ last tournament run, and Wise, who played in the tournament for Boston University.
Westlund was the one to spark Ohio State’s offense.
Winning a 50/50 puck at the wall, Westlund dished a pass to Thiesing in the fourth minute of the first period for the first of two Buckeye scores in the first 20 minutes.
In the first period, Ohio State limited Harvard to three shots on goal, two of which came in the first two minutes before silencing the Crimson offense until there were 46 seconds left until the buzzer.
Holding onto a two-goal lead at the start of the second period, Wise found Westland around the net in the fourth minute to take a 3-0 lead against Harvard.
"He didn't miss meetings, he didn't miss video, he didn't miss practice," Rohlik said of Westlund. "He worked really hard to be in this position tonight, which we didn't think could be possible and just really proud of him.”
Westlund said he didn't find out until the morning of Ohio State's NCAA Tournament game he would be available.
"It felt good to be out there," he said.
But that Westlund score was just the start of an offensive onslaught in the second period, as Thiesing, Lohrei, Dunlap and McWard each added scores in the second period to leave with a 7-0 lead against the Crimson.
McWard also added a goal late in the first period after an initially wide shot ricocheted off the skate of John Farinacci to finish as one of two Buckeyes who recorded multiple goals Friday afternoon along with Thiesing.
Guzzo scored Ohio State's final goal fo the game in the second minute of the third period with assists by Dunlap and Michael Gildon.
"I think we all know that when we play like that it doesn't really matter who we play," Wise said. "We're still confident that we could play and even dominate teams."
Harvard scored its only goal of the game with less than two minutes left on a power play score by Farinacci.
Ohio State goalkeeper Jakub Dobes saved 21 of Harvard's 22 shot attempts.
The Buckeyes killed three of of Harvard's four power-play attempts, coming in as the nation’s leader of killing opponents’ power plays, posting an 89.5% success rate.
Ohio State men's hockey earns first NCAA Tournament victory since 2018
Ohio State’s win against Harvard marks the Buckeyes’ first in the NCAA Tournament since beating Denver in the 2018 regional final to earn a spot in the Frozen Four.
Friday's win marks Ohio State's second seven-goal win of the 2022 season, beating Bentley 9-2 at home Oct. 20.
“I think there is a lot of disrespect to Ohio State,” Dobes said Tuesday. “A lot of teams think we are just a football school. A lot of people think we are just a football school, basketball school. I feel like we have a moment to show what we are all about and just show the world what we are.”
The Buckeyes will take on either Quinnipiac in the NCAA Tournament regional Sunday at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.
Ohio State vs. Quinnipiac
When: 4 p.m. SundayTV: ESPN2