Ohio State is going back to "The Joe" as the Buckeyes defeated Ferris State 3-2 on Sunday in the OSU Ice Rink in the deciding game of the best-of-three series.
Anthony Greco's rebound goal at 3:33 of the third period broke the tie and sent OSU (16-16-7) to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for Saturday's semifinal of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Championship.
OSU plays Notre Dame while Miami faces Michigan in the other matchup. The winners meet Sunday with an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament at stake. For the Buckeyes, that is the only way they can qualify.
"Huge step for our program. We haven't been (to The Joe) in awhile," third-year OSU coach Mark Osiecki said.
In fact, the Buckeyes were the lone CCHA school not to make The Joe since the last time they played there in 2005.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," defenseman Curtis Gedig said. "I can't describe it."
Gedig's power-play goal at 18:50 of the first period to knot the score at 2 couldn't have come at a better time.
"We were awfully quiet on the bench," before the goal, Osiecki said.
But Ferris State, the national runner-up in 2012, responded on a goal by Andy Huff at 13:31 and another from Cory Kane 59 seconds later.
"We didn't seem to panic," Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said.
Gedig got the equalizer by skating deep into the zone then showing forward-like moves that ended with a wrister to the top shelf.
That should have given the Buckeyes momentum but the Bulldogs (16-16-5) dominated the second period in shots, 21-9, only to see Brady Hjelle show why the OSU senior was just named an All CCHA first teamer.
"The first period I didn't play too well," he said. "Once I starting seeing more rubber I got comfortable."
Hjelle finished with a career-best 47 saves.
He kept the Buckeyes in the game long enough for Greco, who was benched in Friday's 4-2 loss but returned Saturday for the 3-1 win, to be in the right spot.
Greco was on the doorstep when goalie CJ Motte made a save on Dzingel. The puck then hit the skate of Ferris State defenseman Zach Dorer.
"It bounced off their D man," Greco said. "I was just trying swiping at it, hoping I hit something. It worked out."
That was so true after the Buckeyes hunkered down and withstood the Bulldogs' furious rush for the tying goal.
"This team is awfully young and still learning how to play big games, how to close out weekends, how to win in general, especially playing a team like Ferris," Osiecki said.
"They're experienced, went to the (NCAA) final last year. They're well coached and it showed tonight. They were playing for their lives but knowing how to win. Our guys found a way to battle and stuck with it. It wasn't pretty. You can't be more proud the way the guys were."
Daniels said likewise about his team.
"We played an extremely good game" he said. "I' m not upset with them or the effort, just the end result.
"(Ohio State's) game plan was good. Coach Osiecki has done an outstanding job with this program. They're a young team. They're on the rise."
The series between the No 4 and 5 seeds in the playoffs was held at the Buckeyes' old home for decades because Value City Arena was in use for the girls state basketball tournament.
Daniels, who began coaching at Ferris State in 1992-93 -six years before VCA opened - didn't mind the move.
"I enjoyed the trip down memory lane," he said.
It was a historic game in many regards, the least of which was the final CCHA game for Ferris State as the league ends its 42-year run - OSU has been a part of it for all but two - and teams head their separate ways.
The Buckeyes will move to the new Big Ten Hockey Conference next season along with CCHA rivals Michigan and Michigan State, independent (for hockey) Penn State and Minnesota and Wisconsin from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
As part of the new league the postseason tourney will be held at one site - either in Minneapolis or Detroit - for all six teams so there will be no more on-campus playoffs.
That meant Sunday's game in theory will be the last in the OSU Ice Rink for the men's program barring unforeseen circumstances.
There were other links to the past as well. Bill McKenzie, the Buckeyes' goalie when they won the first CCHA title in 1972 was on hand as well as All-American forward Perry Pooley, a member of the first OSU team to reach the CCHA final four in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena in 1983.
The Buckeyes even wore their throwback jerseys from the mid-80s.
"It was kind of fitting for us and maybe the CCHA that it took place in the old arena here," Daniels said. "I kind of thought it was a neat thing."