Buckeyes Can't Overcome Early Goals and Fall to Duluth in NCAA Semifinal

By Aubrey Nelson on April 5, 2018 at 9:48 pm
Ohio State forward John Wiitala takes the puck to the net against Minnesota-Duluth goalie Hunter Shepard.

Well, I wish this was better news. The men’s hockey Bucks are out of the NCAA tournament. Minnesota-Duluth out-Buckeyed Ohio State with a relentless, high tempo, defensively flawless effort and prevailed, 2-1.

Scoring by Period 1 2 3 Final
No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth 2 0 0 2
No. 1 Ohio State 0 0 1 1

Duluth delivered its knockout punch in the first period. The Bulldogs hit the ice with more aggression, quicker feet, and better execution from the first drop of the puck. They outhustled, outshot, and outscored Ohio State in the opening 20 minutes.

Buckeye Goal Scorer (Assists) Pd Time
PP - Tanner Laczynski (Dakota Joshua, Wyatt Ege) 3 9:27

Louie Roehl and Jared Thomas struck twice in a 1:11 span to give UMD an early and ultimately insurmountable lead. The Bucks launched no serious offensive threat at Hunter Shepard in the frame as Duluth was as tenacious on defense as on the attack.

The Buckeyes clawed their way back into the game thanks to their stellar special teams. A successful penalty kill late in the first period settled the Bucks down. The ice leveled out in the second period but it wasn’t until midway through the third that Tanner Laczynski wired a slick power play snipe through traffic and past Shepard.

After struggling in the early going Sean Romeo found his groove. He made a handful of spectacular saves over the final two periods to keep the Bucks in the game. After the tilt Steve Rohlik praised the resiliency of his netminder, saying that after the difficult start "most guys would fold their tent, but not Sean. At the end of the day, we have to score more than one goal."

But Ohio State did not generate a second goal. The Bucks struggled to break through the Bulldogs’ stifling defense. Few of the shots they launched at Shepard were unimpeded by Duluth sticks or bodies.

Although the Buckeyes kept plugging away they wouldn’t find the equalizer, not even with the extra attacker on for the final two minutes. Minnesota-Duluth claimed the win and advanced to the national title game by a 2-1 margin. Ohio State’s record-setting season ended one game short of the goal.

This game was an ugly end to a standout year for the Buckeyes and a big statement season for the program. The Bucks were not expected to be competitive in the Big Ten, let alone the NCAA. Instead, they battled to a program-best second place finish in the B1G.

The Scarlet and Gray turned 2016-17's weaknesses - defense and an abysmal penalty kill - into 2017-18's strengths. They maintained a top-10 offense despite losing a significant portion of their scoring to graduation. And the Buckeyes did all this with a blue-collar crew of "no name" players. They had just two NHL prospects on the active roster, far fewer than any other top team.

Ohio State made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since 2004-05 and went to the Frozen Four for the first time in 20 years. The Bucks were a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history. And, although the road ended sooner than anyone would have liked, it ran as long as any in OSU history. 

Following the semifinal loss, team captain Mason Jobst was able to reflect positively on the Buckeyes' outstanding season. "I’m so proud of the guys. It was a great group, I love these guys. Obviously not where we wanted to be with the end result but I’m proud of them."

Rohlik echoed Jobst's sentiments. "Well for me, I’ve coached 27 years and this is the best group I’ve been around. To accomplish what we did, we were on a mission. You’ve got to pinch yourself when you’re around a group like that. I’m so proud of our university."

Stick taps, gentlemen. It was one hell of a run.

  • Here's the official boxscore from the game.
  • Duluth outshot Ohio State 28-20, including a 17-4 margin in the first period.
  • Tanner Laczynski (4) and Gordi Myer (3) led the Buckeye shooters.
  • Only nine Buckeyes registered shots, four defensemen and five forwards.
  • OSU went 1-for-4 on the power play while holding UMD scoreless in two tries.
  • The Bucks blocked 16 shots, led by Wyatt Ege and Matt Joyaux with three each.
  • Ohio State won't be this year's national champ, but least it won't be Michigan either.
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