Ohio State hockey last appeared in the Big Ten Tournament championship game back in 2014, losing to Wisconsin in overtime. You can see the picture of the winning goal crossing the goal line in the header image of this article. Today, they returned to the Big Ten tournament title game for the first time and fell in overtime yet again. History is funny that way.
On St. Patrick’s Day, the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish scored in overtime to defeat No. 5 Ohio State, 3-2. Notre Dame flew out to a 2-0 first period lead before being dominated by Ohio State for much of the final two periods. Overtime would be all Notre Dame, however, as Ohio State seemingly couldn’t make a cross-ice pass while Notre Dame hit a post and was robbed by Sean Romeo at least three times before finally scoring.
The Buckeyes came out as flat as they possibly could, and were utterly dominated by Notre Dame for the first twenty minutes of this one. Shots were 10-7 in favor of the Fighting Irish, but that hardly represents how few good opportunities Ohio State had while Notre Dame was consistently applying offensive pressure.
Bo Brauer scored the first Irish goal at 4:09 of the first. He tipped a Jake Evans shot from a bad angle and it found its way in, past Romeo. Not an ideal start to a game where you came in wanting to prove you deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Notre Dame would add a second goal, this one on a powerplay as Matt Hellickson connected on a shot from the point. Tommy Parran was sent off for cross checking, giving Notre Dame the advantage it needed to double its lead.
Romeo made high-danger save after high-danger save in that first period with Notre Dame firing at will— even if only ten shots were on net— and probably kept OSU in it, despite the team being run over by the Irish.
I don’t know what happened in the locker room during first intermission, but Ohio State finally got over the dreaded South Bend flu and dominated the Irish in the second. Brendon Kearney tipped a Matt Miller shot from the point through traffic, and suddenly Ohio State had life, and only faced a one-goal deficit.
You’re probably not going to score too many clean goals against the best goalie in the country in Cale Morris, so you take ‘em any way you can get ‘em.
That’d be all the Buckeyes would get in the second, however. They’d put on their first consistent pressure in the game, but were largely kept out of high-danger areas by the seasoned Notre Dame defense. And, with Morris behind them, even a one-goal deficit seemed hard to climb with just a period to go.
On a seemingly harmless wrist shot, again by Matt Miller and again through traffic, the puck found its way past Morris, though this time it wasn’t deflected. I can’t be sure if Morris just didn’t see it, but the little wrister was perfectly placed and found its way in. Suddenly, the game was tied at two apiece and Ohio State sure looked like it was the favorite to take this one.
The Buckeyes had seemingly interminable zone pressure, and then, somehow, a wrist shot that was the epitome of “pucks on net” is the one that finds its way in. Hockey is weird.
But, that’d be all that Morris would let in tonight. He’d save the final 18 Ohio State shots on net and get the Irish to overtime still knotted at 2-2. Notre Dame finally found their offensive attack again toward the end of regulation, but couldn’t beat Romeo in the third. Andrew Oglevie in particular had a high-danger chance in front of Romeo and was robbed.
In overtime, the OSU goalie would keep up the heroics, robbing Notre Dame, reaching behind him on a rebound while surviving the Irish onslaught. Notre Dame hit a post and missed another golden opportunity as a big fat rebound happened to kick directly to Wyatt Ege, who cleared the zone for OSU.
But alas, the good fortune was not to last. At 9:23 of overtime, Cam Morrison streaked in for Notre Dame and put it past Romeo on the rush, giving Notre Dame the Big Ten Tournament championship to go along with their regular season title, all in their first year in the conference.
OSU just had nothing go right for them in overtime. Their stretch passes were open, but missing their targets. There was little sustained pressure, and their No. 1 line of Gerard-Jobst-Laczynski was getting hemmed in their own zone. You could tell from a couple of minutes in how this was probably going to end.
This likely doesn’t take Ohio State out of the running for a No. 1 seed. They were still the favorite for that even with a loss. But a win would’ve locked it up. But, it was a valiant effort, as Ohio State clearly outplayed Notre Dame— the No. 1 team in the country for much of the season— over the second and third periods.
Ohio State showed it can play with anyone, and has nearly as good of a chance as any team in the country to reach the Frozen Four, which would have seemed unimaginable when the season started in late September.