That feeling of flying high after the 5-1 win over Denver evaporated pretty quickly on Thursday night as Minnesota-Duluth scored twice within the first 3:04 to go up early on Ohio State, and they didn’t need to score another to hold off the Buckeyes, 2-1, in Thursday night’s Frozen Four matchup in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Buckeyes just looked outclassed most of the night, quite frankly. Duluth scored twice within the first three minutes, with the second coming on a breakaway, and that was that. Ohio State couldn’t generate any offense through the night and were getting stymied in the neutral zone on rush after rush.
When they dumped the puck in, UMD beat them to the puck. Duluth skated more crisply, didn’t miss nearly as many open passes and aside from a weird Tanner Laczynski third period goal, kept Ohio State from getting almost any high danger chances.
Louie Roehl scored the first for Duluth, at just 1:53 and it looked like Ohio State would really be in for a fight. Then they scored again at 3:04 of a breakaway for Jared Thomas and it looked like it was a dicey situation.
What really nailed this one down for Duluth was not allowing Ohio State to generate anything at even strength. They outshot one of the four top seeds in this tournament 17-4 in the first period. Ohio State needed to rebound after that disastrous start and not only did they not rebound, they were lucky they weren’t down by four or five at the first intermission.
The Buckeyes outshot Duluth 16-11 over the final two periods, but they were, for the most part, from the outside or on relatively harmless opportunities. Minnesota goalie Hunter Shepard was making stops but he wasn’t exactly stopping breakaways out there. There was the random loose puck or crossbar shot from Matt Miller, or stop on an odd man rush—but they were few and too far between for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State had three full power play opportunities in the second and third period, and did convert once, on a Tanner Laczynski goal on the power play in the third, but even that was only because of broken sticks and Minnesota’s defense legitimately thinking the puck was out of the zone.
Mason Jobst was by far Ohio State’s most effective skater on the ice tonight. Ohio State’s offense was at its most effective (though still not very effective) when Jobst freelanced on his own. Laczynski started to do the same toward the end, but Duluth upped the pressure and even that was stopped.
UMD’s speed really took Ohio State’s size, which they’d used to great advantage against Denver and Princeton, out of the game. Dakota Joshua was a game wrecking presence against Denver but when he can’t catch up to the Bulldog with the puck, there’s only so much his size can do. He did what he could in front of the net, but when Ohio State’s most effective power play maneuver was a saucer pass to a guy backing down in front of the net, there was only so much opportunity.
After the Laczynski goal at 9:27 of the third, Duluth re-upped the pressure and Ohio State finally had run out of answers. You wouldn’t have thought they were the team desperate for a goal in the ten minutes. Duluth kept them off the puck and pretty much out of their defensive end. The announcers stopped saying what OSU could do for a goal and started talking about what they needed to do just to get the puck into the Minnesota-Duluth defensive end. That’s how well they played defensively.
Ohio State didn’t play well tonight, but all the credit for that has to go to Minnesota-Duluth. Ohio State doesn’t have the elite, high end talent to compete with a team that can skate like that while not making mistakes. Laczynski and Jobst did what they could, but they’re not Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall out there. They’re both possible NHLers but they’re not winning you a title on their own.
Romeo kept Ohio State in the game, saving 26 out of 28 and allowing nothing after the first 3:04 of the game. But those first two goals were momentum killers and allowed UMD to sit back and disrupt anything through the neutral zone. Ohio State couldn’t outskate them and just didn’t have the offensive talent to come back against a team like that.
And so it goes. Laczynski may turn pro and Jobst possibly will as well. But most of the Buckeyes will be back next year and with some underclassmen development, there’s no reason this team can’t come back here next year for revenge.