Tanner Smith's goal with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as No. 16 Denison outlasted Ohio Wesleyan, 7-6 in the first round of the 2011 NCAA Division III Tournament from Deeds Field-Piper Stadium. With the win, Denison advances to Saturday's second round where they will face Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. at 1 p.m.
While the Big Red may have successfully ran their winning streak versus Ohio Wesleyan to six, today's match more closely resembled the one-goal grudge matches that were so common from 2002-07.
Denison came out of the gate strong, scoring three unanswered goals in the opening quarter, but the second quarter would belong to the Battling Bishops as they outscored DU3-1 to knot the score at 4-4 at the half. Denison's four first half goals came from four different players as Emmett Jones starting things off, followed by a man-up goal from Smith. Senior Porter McKay got in the act and Cory Couture provided Denison's lone second quarter goal.
In the second half DU opened up a two-goal lead in the first five minutes of the third quarter when Jones scored an unassisted goal and Smith found Kyle Brown for his 22nd goal of the season with 10:31 to play in the quarter.
With 8:46 left in the third, OWU snapped their scoring drought when Scotty Rosenthal hit Jack McCormick on a cut. The game-tying goals would occur with 2:22 left in the third when OWU's Tony D'Abarno scooped up a ground ball after a Denison turnover and following a clear, Bishop attackman Colin Short found the back of the net off an assist from Drew Scharf.
The two teams would head into the fourth quarter tied at 6-6 and the score would remain that way until Smith's game-winner with just over one minute left. There were plenty of opportunities for the Big Red leading up to the Smith goal. In all, the Big Red took 12 shots over an 11 minute span in that quarter with four of those shots resulting in Stephen Ford saves.
With three minutes left in the contest, Ohio Wesleyan had the ball and after running the clock to the 2:11 mark. That's when OWU middie Drew Scharf saw an opening up the middle of the Denison defense and fired a shot that was saved by DU goalie Nick Petracca.
After the save Denison successfully cleared the ball and calmly got the ball to Smith who ripped a shot from just to the right and five yards from the cage resulting in his 18th goal of the season.
With the game anything but decided, OWU won the ensuing face-off but after getting into their offensive set, a pass to a cutting attacker was intercepted by DU close defenseman Spencer Riehl who deflected the ball to Austin Campbell. Denison successfully cleared the ball but pressure on Davis Lukens deep in Big Red territory on the near sideline resulted in a turnover with 21 seconds left.
Ohio Wesleyan got the ball into their half of the field quickly but their last-chance at scoring with five seconds left met the same fate as their attempt less than 30 seconds earlier. Mark Stanton came up with the interception to seal the win for Denison.
Denison held a 34-29 advantage in shots and finished with 22 ground balls compared to 21 for OWU. There were only three penalties in the contest as Denison went 1-for-2 in extra man while Ohio Wesleyan was 0-for-1. The Bishops held a 11-6 advantage in face-off's and committed 16 turnovers to DU's 14.
The victory improves Denison's record versus OWU to 45-42-1 all-time. In the NCAA Tournament, the Big Red improve to 9-18 overall and 4-5 versus the Battling Bishops in the NCAA postseason. Up next for Denison is undefeated (17-0) and No. 2 ranked, R.I.T. This is Denison's first-ever meeting with the Tigers. R.I.T. will provide live video of the second round game from Rochester, N.Y. at 1p.m.