In a win-or-go-home scenario, No. 3 seed Ohio State played one of its best games of the season, dominating No. 2 seed Harvard from start to finish on Friday afternoon to advance to the NCAA Bridgeport Regional Final.
After building an early lead in the first period, the Buckeyes (21-15-3) scored five times in the second to bury the Crimson (24-8-2) and secure the 8-1 victory at Total Mortgage Arena in Connecticut.
For Ohio State, it’s the most goals it’s ever scored in an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Sophomore forward Cam Thiesing started the party for Ohio State, taking feeds from fifth-year forwards Jake Wise and Gustaf Westlund 3:22 into the game to give the Buckeyes an early 1-0 lead on his 14th goal of the season.
With 1:36 left in the first period, sophomore defenseman Cole McWard doubled the lead when an offline shot ricocheted off Harvard senior forward John Farinacci’s skate and into the net for his eighth on the season. Crimson head coach Ted Donato challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal stood.
Shots were 17-3 in favor of the Buckeyes in the opening 20 minutes, with senior goalie Mitchell Gibson collecting 15 saves to keep the Crimson within striking distance. The period was primarily clean, with Harvard committing only one penalty compared to zero for Ohio State.
In the second period, Ohio State’s offensive pressure only increased. At 3:44, Westlund created a turnover and took a dish from Wise to make it 3-0 Buckeyes on just his second goal of the campaign.
Before the public address announcers could finish their sentences, Thiesing took the proceeding faceoff and raced down the ice to deposit his second goal of the game past an unsuspecting Gibson six seconds later to make it 4-0.
At 8:24, sophomore defenseman Mason Lohrei got in on the action when he took assists from freshmen forwards Stephen Halliday and Davis Burnside to make it 5-0 on his fourth of the season.
Junior forward Joe Dunlap recorded his 12th goal on the campaign at 15:08 after passes on a three-on-two breakaway from Lohrei and junior forward Patrick Guzzo led his shot attempt deflecting off Gibson’s foot into the net.
After a slashing penalty on Harvard junior forward Ryan Drkulec, McWard recorded his second goal of the game via the power play at 16:59 courtesy of another assist from Wise.
The second period saw Ohio State dominate offensive possession again, outshooting Harvard 17-5. The Crimson committed three more penalties in the frame compared to one for the Buckeyes.
In the final 20 minutes, Guzzo netted one more goal for the Buckeyes, scoring his ninth on the season 1:10 into the third period off feeds from Dunlap and junior forward Michael Gildon to finish their offensive explosion.
Farinacci cracked the scoreboard for Harvard with 3:14 remaining on assists from junior forward Sean Farrell and sophomore defenseman Ian Moore. The lone goal ended sophomore goalie Jakub Dobeš’ shutout bid and what would’ve been the largest in NCAA Tournament history.
In total, Ohio State outshot Harvard 40-22. The Buckeyes’ special teams unit showed out, killing off three of four Crimson power-play opportunities and converting with the man advantage once themselves.
In the battle of goalies, Dobeš surrendered only one goal and recorded 21 saves. Gibson recorded 27 saves but gave up the most goals in his career at eight.
Westlund recorded two points in his first game action since suffering an injury on Oct. 14, 2022, against UConn.
Wise recorded four assists on the afternoon to give him 39 points on the season, just behind Halliday for the team lead at 41.
The Buckeyes return to action in the regional final at 4 p.m. on Sunday against the winner of No. 1 seed Quinnipiac and No. 4 seed Merrimack for the right to go to the Frozen Four. ESPN2 will televise.
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