ALLENTOWN, PA – The Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the reigning national champs, the Denver Pioneers, and will advance to the Frozen Four, after a vicious battle in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship game Sunday night in the PPL Center.
It was the fire lit by Dakota Joshua that had the Buckeyes offense seemingly unstoppable in Sunday night’s game at the PPL Center.
After senior center, Matthew Weis went down in practice with a season ending arm injury, Buckeye coach, Steve Rohlik, called upon the 6-foot-3 junior center, Dakota Joshua to be the anchor for the Buckeye offense. While coach called, Joshua sure did answer.
“He can play the game any way you want. He’s got great stick, great size and he competes, and you saw what he did in the defensive end tonight. He was all in. I said, ‘I need you here,’ and he was like, ‘Whatever you need.’ Even tonight, they were trying to get away from the matchup, and we kept matching back up and he was ready for the challenge” said Rohlik.
After a grueling duel, the first period was left scoreless. It was Joshua to break the streak and get the Buckeyes on the board first at 3:47 in the second period. The momentum was followed by senior forward Kevin Miller who contributed to the second period domination and sprung the Buckeyes to a 2-0 lead.
While the Denver Pioneers put on an all-around elite performance against the Nittany Lions on Saturday, it was not the same team that showed up on Sunday.
Ohio State’s explosive offense, creative thinking, and sheer passion was more than enough to completely dethrone the reigning champs. The team truly gelled together and skated as an unbeatable unit. Their communication and ability to work as one was a status of champions.
“We’ve had the feeling. We’ve battled a lot of adversity throughout the year, but we always knew we had a special group,” Joshua said. “We knew we had to come together here and had a chance at another championship, so I think that brought us a little closer.”
Ohio State entered the third period with tunnel vision to claim the final spot in the Frozen Four which showed when redshirt senior defenceman Matt Joyaux extended the lead to 3-0 with 9:27 left in the third period.
For what seemed like eternity, the Pioneers finally looked collected enough to find sophomore forward Tyson McLellan who was then able to find the net.
Unfortunately, what spark they believed to have left was completely extinguished when Miller notched his second of the night and regained the three-goal lead (4-1). And with every desperate attempt to close the gap, Denver pulled Jaillet for the extra offender. It was the final nail in the coffin when Mason Jobst iced the game with an empty netter.
Although an icy road awaits the Ohio State Buckeyes, if they play anything like they did on Sunday, the trophy could potentially be theirs.
Perhaps you are update to with the current theme of 2018: the rise of the underdogs. As Ohio State secured its spot in the Frozen Four, those that await are hungry for the trophy. However, in case you haven’t heard, hungry dogs run faster.
With a rock solid goaltender like redshirt junior, Sean Romeo the Buckeye defense has held opponents to just 2.1 per game, the fourth-fewest in the nation.
Moving into their next game, the Buckeyes have a big chip on their shoulder as they will play Minnesota Duluth, the team that defeated the Buckeyes in the opening round last season.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will advance to the Frozen Four joining fellow Big Ten rivals, Michigan, Notre Dame and will take on Minnesota Duluth at 6 p.m. ET Thursday April 5 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota.