FARGO-To give the Bulldogs credit, they were able to weather the high-powered Ohio State offense and pull within one victory of the Frozen Four once again.
But it took everything Minnesota Duluth had-especially in the goaltending department. And the effort was rewarded.
Defenseman Willie Raskob bailed top-seeded Minnesota-Duluth out with an overtime blast, sending the Bulldogs to the West Regional championship game with a 3-2 victory over the fourth-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night at Scheels Arena.
“We never really found a great rhythm, but it’s what this team has done all year,” said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. “We’ve grinded through games and even when you’re not at your best every game, we found ways to win and tonight was no different.”
The real star of the game was Bulldogs goaltender Hunter Miska, who had probably three or four highlight-reel saves on the night, if not more. He finished with 40 overall.
“I felt really good tonight,” said Miska, who earned his 25th victory of the season. “My team played really good in front of me allowing me to see the first puck and make the save and make my rebounds in the corners so [Ohio State] didn’t get another opportunity.”
Matt Joyaux and Gordi Myer had third-period goals to bring Ohio State back from a 2-0 deficit and nearly jumpstart their potent offense to a first-round upset. Coach Steve Rohlik was happy with the effort despite the heartbreaking outcome.
“Hockey’s a game of momentum,” Rohlik said. “We felt we played a pretty good hockey game. Our guys just kept talking about emptying the tanks and throwing pucks at the net and we kept feeling better and better.”
Minnesota-Duluth came out firing in the second period, scoring twice to seize momentum after a slow first period. Dominic Toninato rang one in off the post less than a minute in and Nick Wolff launched a seeing-eye puck from the left point just under 13 minutes later, beating Tomkins over his right shoulder.
In the third period, it was the Buckeyes who started flexing their offensive muscles. Unlike the second period where the Bulldogs were all over them, it was Ohio State putting UMD on their heels in the third period, pushing across the goals they needed to tie the game. First, it was Joyaux finding paydirt from the slot with just under 13 minutes left, then it was Myer scoring his first (and therefore biggest) collegiate goal.
Just like that, the game was knotted at two apiece and momentum was in the favor of Ohio State. Raskob knew it and so did his teammates.
“We gave the momentum away there,” Raskob said. “We just talked ‘stay with it;’ all year we’ve been down before, we’ve given up leads but we’ve battled back.”
OSU, meanwhile, was pumped up.
“I thought we played a really good third period. We scored a couple of big goals,” Buckeyes forward Nick Schilkey said.
Ohio State looked poised to win the game late, getting their fourth power play of the contest with 1:06 to go in regulation and forcing Sandelin to call a timeout. It worked, as they were able to force overtime and keep the top-ranked Ohio State power play from scoring. However, they still had to weather the Buckeye offense, and as Sandelin said, none of that would’ve been possible without Miska.
“This guy sitting to my right [Miska next to him on the podium] was the difference in the game. I thought he played outstanding for us,” Sandelin said.
The turning point came just past the halfway point of overtime. After Ohio State crashed the net and forced a stoppage of play after the net came off behind Miska, the Buckeyes asked for and got a review to see if the puck went in first. It did not, but the stoppage benefited UMD, which came out hard after play resumed and were able to set up in the OSU zone, leading to the game-winning blast at the top of the right circle from Raskob.
“We just didn’t quit all night and came out in the overtime and had plenty of chances, but for some reason just couldn’t find the back of the net,” Schilkey said.
Minnesota-Duluth, which is playing in its third consecutive regional championship, will look to advance to its first Frozen Faceoff in six seasons when it takes on Boston University, a 4-3 double-overtime winner over North Dakota, at 5 p.m. CT on Saturday.
UMD goal at :49: Toninato 16. Assist: Alex Iafallo 28.
UMD goal at 13:41: Wolff 2. Assists: Willie Raskob 11 and Riley Tufte 6.
OSU goal at 7:09: Joyaux 3. Assists: Kevin Miller 4 and Dakota Joshua 23.
OSU goal at 12:40: Myer 1. Assist: Tanner Laczynski 22.
UMD goal at 11:58: Raskob 4. Assists: Iafallo 29 and Joey Anderson 22.
Shots on goal: OSU 42, UMD 32.
Power plays: OSU 0-4, UMD 0-2.