The Denver Pioneers and Ohio State Buckeyes meet again in the Frozen Four Tournament Friday in Fargo, ND
It’s difficult to be mad about the results of last weekend’s NCHC Frozen Faceoff. The Denver Pioneers faced a lot of adversity this season and have fared well as a young team in an extremely competitive conference. They won over 20 games, they took 3rd place in the conference tournament and now enter the NCAA Tournament with the ability to beat any team in the bracket. In a year where the team was supposed to take a step back, the Pioneers are playing with house money and that will be dangerous for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
DC 🎥 "We do everything the same way in our preparation and our process for a reason. We don’t change anything we’re doing just because it’s the national tournament. That should give our guys comfort and confidence” #PioneerTogether pic.twitter.com/AhU4lksfNn
— Denver Hockey (@DU_Hockey) March 25, 2019
Ohio State Buckeyes (20-10-5)
The Buckeyes had another successful season under head coach Steve Rohlik, winning over 20 games for the third consecutive season. They are coming off a Frozen Four appearance last season after they defeated the Pioneers in the regional final but then lost to the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in the Frozen Four. Luckily for them, Duluth is on the other side of the bracket, but top seed St. Cloud State is the team to beat this year.
It was this time last year when the Buckeyes ended the Pioneers’ season, a Denver team that was picked to repeat as national champions. The game got away from Denver who trailed 2-0 through the third period and just couldn’t crawl back. There were under 10 shots on net in the first and second periods for the Pios, and 16 in the third when they went into desperation mode. It was clear that the Buckeyes had a plan to jump all over Denver and hold them until time expired.
This year, Denver has the opportunity to return the favor, but they will have a few players on Ohio State’s bench to keep their eye on. Senior forward and captain Mason Jobst leads the team with 35 points including 17 goals. He and junior forward Tanner Laczynski are point-per-game players for the Buckeyes who also take a majority of the shots.
Another huge contributor for Ohio State is co-captain Sasha Larocque. The six-foot, 200-pound defenseman has had a tremendous career with the Buckeyes and is their top defenseman. He was this year’s Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. And behind him was the Goaltender of the Year, Tommy Nappier. The big goaltender from St. Louis went 12-3-3 with a GAA of 1.91 and a save percentage of .934. At the beginning of the year, Nappier won six games in a row including two shutouts. He will be a huge key to success in the tournament for Ohio State.
Another factor will be Buckeye’s head coach Steve Rohlik. The B1G 10 Coach of the Year will most likely have his team ready to play the Pioneers in another postseason matchup. When Mason Jobst was asked at media day if the Pioneers were like any other Big Ten team that they’ve played, he said that Denver is most like his team. Both teams like to play fast and play team-defense that will be hard to play against. Rohlik will see the tape on Denver and know that physicality is the way to shut down the quick forwards of Denver.
"This time of year, 16 teams have a chance to win a national title, & you've got to play your best to win." – Steve Rohlik
Check out today's media session with coach Rohlik & read up on tomorrow's game vs Denver.
— Ohio State Men's Hockey (@OhioStateMHKY) March 28, 2019
Prediction – Denver moves on to the next round
The motivation is there. Denver is coming off a game where they took some frustration out of Colorado College, especially Ian Mitchell who has been taking it upon himself to will the Pioneers to victory. Denver is catching Ohio State at a good time where they’ve really cooled off. Losers of five of their last seven games, the Buckeyes don’t have the momentum they did last year when they won 7 of 8 going into the Frozen Four. The Pioneers will face top seed St. Cloud State in the next round for their shot at going to Buffalo for the Frozen Four.
Twitter Follow – @OhioStateMHKY
Where to Watch/Listen
Friday – 2:00pm MT, ESPNU