Field Level Media
SAINT PAUL -- Early goals by Louie Roehl and Jared Thomas, along with 19 saves by goalie Hunter Shepard earned Minnesota Duluth a return to the national title game, as the Bulldogs beat Ohio State 2-1 on Thursday in the opening game of the NCAA Frozen Four.
The Bulldogs (24-16-3), who fell 3-2 to Denver in the finale a year ago in Chicago, will face either Notre Dame or Michigan on Saturday night in search of the school's second national hockey title. Ohio State (26-10-5) got 26 saves from goalie Sean Romeo and a third period goal from Tanner Laczynski but could not overcome the slow start.
It had been 20 years since Ohio State played in a Frozen Four. By contrast, the Bulldogs had played in the 2017 title game and played a pair of games on this ice sheet last month in their conference tournament. Their familiarity with the building and the atmosphere showed right from the start as UMD jumped out to a 2-0 lead after barely three minutes.
Roehl, one of the five freshman defensemen playing for the Bulldogs, caught a cross-ice pass from Matt Anderson and snapped off a shot behind Romeo to immediately get the partisan crowd involved. Just 71 seconds later, Thomas doubled the UMD lead, catching a lead pass from Karson Kuhlman and coming in alone on a breakaway. Thomas slipped a backhand shot between the goalie's knees for a 2-0 lead just 3:04 into the game. The Bulldogs had a 17-4 shots-on-goal advantage in the first period.
The scoreless middle period was much more even, with the Buckeyes holding an 8-6 advantage in shots. Ohio State got the second period's only power play but could not get on the scoreboard. Laczynski scored a power-play goal near the midway point of the third period on a wrist shot that hit Thomas' hand and changed directions in front of Shepard.
UMD won the school's only NCAA hockey title in 2011, the last time the Frozen Four was played at Xcel Energy Center, beating Michigan 3-2 in overtime for the crown. The Bulldogs are making the sixth Frozen Four trip in school history and the fourth under coach Scott Sandelin. It was the 10th consecutive one-goal game the Bulldogs have played in the NCAA Tournament.