ALBANY, N.Y. — Thirty-five years and 72 minutes.
That’s the time it took between goals in the hockey rivalry between Big Ten schools Wisconsin and Ohio State, and the goal was the overtime winner to cap the only game ever to end regulation scoreless, and only the fourth 1-0 game and 25th shutout, in NCAA tournament history.
The hero was Wisconsin captain Dan Boeser. Boeser took the rebound of a Ross Carlson shot and pounded it past OSU netminder Dave Caruso at 12:03 of overtime to advance the Badgers to the East Regional final against Maine.
The Badgers started the rush from their own zone as Carlson weaved his way through neutral ice and went down the right wing. He dropped it off to Robbie Earl who had the initial shot which was sticked away by Caruso, but right on the stick of a pinching Boeser, who had joined the rush. Boeser took the puck and quickly put it past Caruso for the game-winner.
“This is the biggest goal of my career,” said Boeser. “We never gave up and came out with a game plan in mind, and stuck to that. With Bruckler behind us shutting the door, thankfully I got a nice rebound in front and shot it home.”
“No one has enjoyed this season more than Dan,” said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves. “With what we went through last year and what he’s gone through personally, he’s persisted, he’s survived.”
Boeser had been diagnosed with follicular b-cell lymphoma before the start of last season, underwent radiation therapy and still played in the season opener against Rensselaer.
In the previous eight games between the two teams, Wisconsin had not lost to the Buckeyes: in fact, the margin of victory in those eight games averaged 7.9 goals. The last time the two teams met, on January 29, 1969, the Badgers scored a 5-0 win over the Buckeyes.
The Badgers are now 9-0 against the Buckeyes, and the Buckeyes end up on the wrong end of another 1-0 NCAA tournament game, after last year losing to Boston College by the same score.
It was by no means the prettiest game. In fact, one could call it downright ugly. The name of the game was defense, posts, blocked shots and goaltending — starting with the posts.
With a string of penalties resulting in a short 5-on-3 for Wisconsin midway through the first period, the Badgers saw plenty of opportunities. But the Buckeyes were up to the task, blocking shots, and Caruso had his posts help him twice.
The result was no Badger goal, and the post continued to be Caruso’s best friend as the Badgers drew iron two more times. Not that the Buckeyes didn’t — Sean Collins intercepted a pass at the top of the near circle and rifled one off the far post behind Bernd Bruckler.
The Buckeyes regained the momentum after the Badger spurt midway through the first, though the Badgers outshot the Buckeyes, 13-6, in the period.
The second period began with Buckeye Dave Steckel called for a penalty. While in the box his teammates sent the puck into the Wisconsin zone where Bruckler misplayed it back to center ice and left the net open for Matt Waddell. Waddell fired into the open net, but the Buckeyes had not cleared the zone, leading to the goal being washed out.
The close calls continued in the second period, but both defenses continued to block shot after shot. Through one period of play the Buckeye defense had blocked 11 shots while the Badger defense had six. After two periods, the count for the Buckeyes rose to 15, the Badgers 14.
The Buckeyes got a golden opportunity in the second as Kenny Bernard skated in front of Bruckler and got off a backhanded shot. The shot hit the crossbar and bounced away harmlessly.
“Almost” continued to be the name of the game as the two teams remained scoreless after two.
The story didn’t change much in the third. Through 16 minutes of the final stanza, shots on goal combined for both teams were a measly four. Wisconsin had a total of 20 through regulation and Ohio State 23.
“It was a very even game and I think the language that was in the locker room was, ‘Let’s just get the puck on net in overtime,’” said Eaves. “They did a great job of blocking a lot of our shots all game long.”
The Buckeyes blocked 24 total shots while the Badgers blocked 25. In total, both goaltenders had 28 saves on the evening.
Ohio State had an opportunity in overtime with Rene Bourque sitting in the box for high-sticking. The Buckeyes’ best chance on that power play came when Bryce Anderson had the top corner on Bruckler, but shot it high and wide.
“It was like a chess match out there,” said Ohio State coach John Markell. “We were still feeling the effects of last week. We definitely had our opportunities, we hit posts and they fought to the end with a great effort last weekend and what we saw tonight.”
There was a difference of opinions surrounding both teams. Wisconsin did not play last weekend and Ohio State played three times in the CCHA Super Six. Which team would get the better of that?
“Some of our guys found their second wind later on,” said Eaves. “We were nervous about the first period and how we would come out, but as the game wore on, I didn’t see us wear down.”
“We played three games in three nights,” said Caruso. “Some guys were under the weather, but it’s tough — it always is. We’re not using it as an excuse, but Wisconsin had more energy in overtime than we did.”
“They made us fight through a lot and they made us use a lot of our energy,” said Markell. “It was hard to get anything going and that’s the kind of game we knew they were going to come with. Energy-wise, I thought our guys were getting it back yesterday.”
“I’ve been there before where I have to be sharp during the game,” said Bruckler. “They got the power play and they got five shots, so I had to be mentally tough. I had to be there for my team.”
With the win, the Badgers’ 13th overtime game of the season, they will play Maine on Saturday, a team that they lost to in the Maverick Stampede championship, 6-2, earlier this season.
“Maine is a very good team,” said Eaves. “One of their strengths is the way they play; they work hard. That team had the capability of coming back and when you get to this level it’s will versus will. Tomorrow night will be a test for us again.”