DETROIT — Notre Dame outworked and outshot Ohio State through two periods, but the Buckeyes found their feet in the third and got a goal from an improbable source to win the first CCHA quarterfinal game 3-2 and advance to Friday’s late semifinal against No. 2 seed Michigan.
“It came down to two bounces, and we got them at the end,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I thought our team played very, very well in the third period to secure it.
“It was a typical CCHA battle.”
After a scoreless first period, T.J. Latorre gave OSU a 1-0 lead early in the second, but Brad Wanchulak and Rob Globke responded for the Irish to put Notre Dame ahead 2-1 a little over midway through the third.
At 17:54 in the second, though, Ryan Kesler evened it up for OSU and the stanza ended 2-2, and freshman defenseman Nate Guenin’s goal at 6:09 in the third stood up as the Buckeye game-winner.
“Obviously, very disappointed in the locker room right now,” said Dave Poulin, Notre Dame head coach. “I thought we played very well. The crucial time was when we got up 2-1 in the second period and had a couple of great scoring opportunities and weren’t able to capitalize on them.
“I liked where we were at the end of the second period. I thought we were playing well, I thought we forechecked well. We built a gameplan around stopping RJ Umberger, and I thought our guys, particularly Aaron Gill and John Wroblewski, did a great job of that.”
Unfortunately for the Irish, containing Umberger rarely equals containment of the entire OSU offense.
Latorre was fed by Chris Olsgard at 2:44 in the second for the early Buckeye lead. After receiving the puck from Dave Steckel, Olsgard flew up the right wing with Latorre in the left, dropped back to the senior just in front of the crease, and Latorre found the back of the net clean for the score.
Wanchulak’s goal at 8:59 was a solo effort, with Wanchulak stealing the puck right in front of the OSU crease to make the play.
At 13:58 and after picking an OSU player’s pocket in the neutral zone, Globke brought an Irish two-on-one to completion, with Connor Dunlop picking up the assist.
Kesler’s goal came from just outside the crease on the left, and the period ended 2-2.
From the start of the third, it was clear that the Buckeyes returned to the ice with renewed purpose; having been outshot by the Irish 19-15 through two, OSU limited Notre Dame to three shots while taking 10 in the final 20 minutes.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to practice as a team longer than 20 minutes,” said Markell. “In fact, we had some guys miss the banquet yesterday because they were writing exams. Obviously, we have a lot of serious students like everybody does, and we want to see them do well.
“We knew we would have to play through it in the first period, but it took a little bit longer than I thought, and I thought we were playing into their game a little bit by not securing the puck inside the blue lines and using the glass to our advantage.”
Guenin, a player known more for blocking shots than taking them, registered just his second goal of the season to win the game for OSU. Paul Caponigri dug the puck out of the right corner and passed to Guenin, who was stationed to the right of the Irish crease.
“I thought it was a great backhanded pass,” said Markell, “and [Guenin] finished it.”
“It doesn’t happen often, I’ll tell you that much,” said Guenin. “I saw Cap with the puck in the corner.so I jumped into the play. He put it pretty much right on my tape.”
Caponigri, who earned two assists in the game, said that the Buckeyes are looking forward to a rematch with the Wolverines, a team they tied twice just two weekends ago. “They were great games to play in.
“We know it’s going to be a battle tomorrow.”
Mike Betz, this year’s winner of the Mike and Marian Ilitch Humanitarian award, made 20 saves in the win, while Morgan Cey stopped 22 in the loss.
The Irish finish their 2002-03 season 17-17-6; OSU improves to 25-10-5.