ALLENTOWN, Pa. — After a regular season in which junior forward Mason Jobst and sophomore forward Tanner Laczynski led the Ohio State men’s hockey team in points, the team’s seniors powered it to the program’s first Frozen Four appearance since 1998.
Senior forward Kevin Miller scored two of the Buckeyes’ five goals in a 5-1 victory against No. 2 Denver (23-10-8) in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Sunday to send No. 1 Ohio State (26-9-5) to Saint Paul, Minnesota, to face No. 3 Minnesota Duluth.
“It feels really good right now, but as you can see in college hockey the parity is off the charts. It’s not going to get any easier,” head coach Steve Rohlik said. “We’re going to enjoy this tonight, we just beat one of the best teams in the country, but we know we have to be at our best here in two weeks.”
Joining Miller on the score sheet was senior defenseman Matt Joyaux, who netted his second goal of the season in the third period, and senior forward Christian Lampasso, who assisted on both of Miller’s goals.
“Lampasso made two really good passes to me,” Miller said. “I get two goals combined and I think I only had the puck on my stick for half a second, so pretty fortunate to have two tap-ins.”
After a deadlocked opening period that featured minimal chances on both ends, Ohio State found daylight at the hands of junior forward Dakota Joshua, who backhanded a shot past senior goalie Tanner Jaillet to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead.
“I was just trying to get a stick on it,” Joshua said. “It was a battle in front, and I just got lucky, and it found the back of the net.”
Ohio State came into the game 12-0-1 when scoring first this season, an unbeaten record that remained unblemished once again against the Pioneers.
The Buckeyes doubled their lead later in the period in the same fashion they scored their first goal. Senior forward Christian Lampasso got the puck to the middle and fed Miller, who found space to get off a backhand shot which beat Jaillet high to put Ohio State up 2-0.
Denver controlled much of the possession early in the third period, but Laczynski added to the lead anyway after stealing the puck and making a pass to a wide-open Matt Joyaux, and the senior defenseman buried his second goal of the season.
The Pioneers answered back with a goal from sophomore forward Tyson McLellan to cut the lead to two. But it took only 30 seconds for Ohio State to answer with another goal by Miller.
“It was huge,” Miller said. “You can see that they felt like they had some momentum, so it was pretty huge for us to come back and score real quick and try to shut down their momentum.”
Jobst scored an empty-net goal when Denver decided to pull Jaillet with more than six minutes remaining, all but sealing the defeat of the Pioneers and ending their pursuit of a second NCAA title in a row.
Ohio State advances to the Frozen Four and will play Minnesota Duluth, the team that defeated the Buckeyes in the opening round last season.
“Last year we thought we played a really good game against them,” Miller said. “[We] came up a little short, so it’ll be nice to, hopefully, find some redemption and beat them in two weeks time.”