Ohio State hockey has had their best season in 20 years, and it’s fitting that they’ll play the team that eliminated them last season in their quest for a national championship. The Buckeyes take on the University of Minnesota-Duluth on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET, with a trip to the title game on the line to play either Notre Dame or Michigan.
Three out of the four teams in the 2018 Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota hail from the Big Ten, with Ohio State scoring victories over both the Irish and Wolverines at one point this season. The Buckeyes, however, haven’t taken on UMD since last season’s NCAA tournament, where the Bulldogs eliminated the Buckeyes in overtime, 3-2, en route to a national championship game appearance where they fell to Denver.
Denver’s hockey team may ring a bell since they brought nearly everyone not named Will Butcher back for a repeat opportunity, but were flattened by Ohio State in the Midwest Regional final last week. By that logic, Ohio State should be able to win here — but also by that logic, Rutgers has been a transitive basketball national champion in recent years.
Make no mistake, however, the Buckeyes are the favorites coming into this one. OSU is 26-9-5 so far in the 2017-18 season, while Duluth is just 23-16-3 ahead of this rematch. Ohio State has had a +47 goal differential this year while Duluth’s +38 differential comes from a conference that didn’t have three of the final four teams. The team’s shooting percentages are identical at 9.9% each, but Sean Romeo has powered Ohio State to a .928 save percentage, compared to UMD’s .916.
Duluth does hold an advantage in the advanced stats, placing fifth in the nation in even-strength Corsi-percentage at 55.6%, while Ohio State was merely above average at 52.6%. The ultimate difference maker may be OSU’s penalty kill, which ranks number one in the nation at 89.3%, while UMD’s lags behind at 82.6%. Both teams stand at 23.9% on the powerplay.
Ohio State is the favorite in this matchup, but Denver was the favorite last week versus the Buckeyes and we all saw how that turned out. Either way, we’re one round away from an Ohio State-Michigan national title game. (Football would be the only major men’s Michigan program not in a title game this year. Sad!)
How to watch the 2018 Frozen Four: Ohio State vs. Minnesota-Duluth
- Game time: 6:00 p.m. ET
- Location: Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN
- TV: ESPN2
- Radio: 1460 AM in Columbus
- Streaming: WatchESPN