In a game of inches that had two goaltenders at the top of their game, the Big Ten semifinal matchup between Ohio State and Michigan threatened to go long past 60 minutes after a 2-2 deadlock at the end of regulation pushed the game into overtime.
Instead, it took all of 32 seconds for senior forward Matthew Weis to rip a shot past sophomore goalie Hayden Lavigne and give the Buckeyes a 3-2 victory.
The overtime win was the second in a row for Ohio State following a 4-3 win against Michigan State last Saturday, a win that Weis said helped make this victory come easier.
“We were there last weekend, we got a little experience there,” Weis said. “I just tried to find some open space and Tanner [Laczynski] made an unbelievable pass and I ‘finally shot the puck’ I guess as coach would say, and luckily it found the net.”
Second-seeded Ohio State advances to face top-seeded Notre Dame in the championship game Saturday. The Fighting Irish defeated the Buckeyes in three of four matchups this season.
“We certainly know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said. “Hopefully we go in there and we compete at the highest level and kind of be at the top of our game.”
No. 6 Ohio State (24-8-5, 15-8-2-1 Big Ten) struck first on a power-play goal by defenseman Gordi Myer. The sophomore found space and beat Lavigne through traffic in front.
The Buckeyes scored again with the man advantage in the third period on a tip-in by junior forward Dakota Joshua that gave Ohio State a 2-1 lead versus No. 11 Michigan (20-14-3, 11-11-3-2 Big Ten).
On both power-play goals, the Buckeyes played three defensemen — Myer, senior Matt Joyaux and sophomore Matt Miller — on the ice along with two forwards — Joshua and junior John Wiitala — a strategy Rohlik said was due to a change in the personnel available.
“We just happened to have two of our power play guys not in our lineup tonight, so we kind of had to make some changes,” Rohlik said. “They actually had a good week of practice a couple days we had to put them together, and we just went with it.”
Myer’s goal was just the second in his Ohio State career, with the first coming in the NCAA tournament against Minnesota Duluth last season.
“Gordi likes to show up in big games,” Rohlik said. “He just likes to score the big goals of the big games, that’s fine by me.”
Michigan knotted the score at one goal apiece in the second period after a flurry of chances led to junior forward Cooper Marody finding the back of the net. He scored the goal from his stomach, beating Romeo high on a circus shot to put his team on the scoreboard and tie the game.
Marody wasn’t done with his highlight reel. He tied the game at two on a low shot off a spin move while on a power play.
The line of Marody, senior forward Dexter Dancs and senior forward Tony Calderone has been a strong point all season for Michigan, and Wolverines head coach Mel Pearson said they were a strength again in this matchup.
“They’ve given us what they had all year,” Pearson said. “When we need a spark it seemed like it’s been their line all year.”
The final minutes of the third period offered opportunities on both sides of the ice, but Romeo and Lavigne both held strong and forced the game into overtime. Romeo had 29 saves and Lavigne had 32.
The win marked the fifth time Ohio State defeated its arch-rival this season, something that has never been done in school history.
“It’s unbelievable,” Weis said. “Obviously the rivalry is intense and probably the best in college sports, so I mean it’s a great feeling, but like we just said it’s another win and now we have an opportunity to play for a Big Ten championship.”