FARGO, N.D. — Moments after seeing their season end with a 2-0 loss to Denver in the opening game of the West Regional on Friday at Scheels Arena, the Ohio State Buckeyes talked about how Denver freshman goaltender Filip Larsson was able to make himself big in the net, how he didn’t get rattled and how he was able to make the big saves.
Pioneers coach David Carle’s take? “He was a stud.”
Especially in the first period, when OSU owned the play and was close to having the kind of opening 20 minutes that could have produced an entirely different outcome.
It was all in a day’s work for Larsson.
“The first period is the most important for a goalie,” he said, “so I always try to go out hard. I was able to make some saves and keep our team in the game.”
Along with Larsson’s heroics, the Pioneers got a goal from defenseman Les Lancaster in the final minute of the second period and added an empty-net goal by Colin Staub in the last minute of the third period to move within one win of earning a trip to the Frozen Four.
“We would have liked to have had a better first period,” Carle said. “Aside from a five-minute stretch, we were just trying to survive their barrage. After that, we were able to take a breath and we got our rhythm in the second period.”
Ohio State outshot Denver 24-13 in the game and 12-5 in the first period. Included in Larsson’s saves was a stop on a clear breakaway by Quinn Preston midway through the first period and a partial breakaway by Dakota Joshua in the opening minute of the second period.
“We played the exact game we wanted to play,” Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. “The idea was to come out in the first period and get the upper hand. We had our chances.”
Larsson has shared time in goal with Devin Cooley this season, and both have been standouts. Larsson’s outstanding 2.08 goals-against average in 19 games was topped by Cooley’s 1.85 in 20 games.
“They’re our co-MVPs this season,” Carle said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without either one of them.”
Both teams entered the game knowing that getting the first goal would be huge. Lancaster was responsible for the Pioneers’ two best scoring chances in the game. After speeding down the right wing and getting stopped from in tight by OSU goaltender Tommy Nappier at 13 minutes of the second period, he didn’t miss the second time.
Denver winger Emilio Pettersen chipped a pass ahead to Lancaster just inside the OSU blue line, and Lancaster beat Nappier with a wrist shot to the short side.
“A lot of my game is using my speed,” Lancaster said, “so when I see an opening I go. Emilio found me and I was able to bury it, which was good because Nappier robbed me earlier in the period.”
Once the Pioneers got the lead they did an excellent job of clogging the neutral zone and limiting Ohio State’s scoring chances.
“The only good opportunities they had were in the first period,” Larsson said. “Other than that I had a pretty easy job.”
Carle said that is all a part of the Pioneers’ team identity.
“We got the goaltending in the first and after that I thought we got our legs,” he said. “We took away their time and space and limited their second-chance opportunities. The goals haven’t been easy to come by in the second half of the season so you have to find other ways to win.”