GRANVILLE, Ohio -- It wasn't easy, but victories in the second round of the NCAA tournament rarely are.
Leading 8-7 entering the fourth quarter, Denison outscored Aurora 3-1 during the final 15 minutes to defeat the Spartans 11-8 on Saturday. With the win, the Big Red advance to the NCAA quarterfinals for the 13th time in program history and the third time out of the past six seasons.
In just its fourth year as a varsity program, yet playing in its second consecutive NCAA tournament second round, Aurora gave Denison all it could handle during the first 45 minutes of play. The Spartans jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Max Obriecht and Danny Loyall in the first 5 minutes of play, and held a 5-4 lead with 8:38 to play in the second quarter.
After a slashing penalty was called on Aurora's Jeremy Kartel with 5 minutes left in the second quarter, Denison would score its only man-up goal of the day when Luke Walsh fed Blair Farinholt for his first of three goals on the day.
Senior Chapin Speidel would score on a laser 2 minutes later, putting his team up 6-5 heading into halftime.
Goals by Teddy Powell and Walsh would offset Aurora's pair of scores in the third period, keeping the home team out in front by one entering the pivotal fourth quarter.
DU would win the opening face-off in the fourth quarter and was patient with its one-goal lead. After Walsh's first shot sailed wide, he would get a second chance when Eddie Vita gave a pass from behind the goal to Walsh who zeroed in on the upper-left corner of the goal, giving DU a 9-7 advantage.
Aurora kept the crowd on pins and needles when Jason Koziol scored his 21st goal of the season with 7 minutes to play, making it a one-goal affair once again.
With 5:48 to play, Denison was flagged for a 30-second penalty and Aurora's Zachary Olsen took a shot that was saved by Big Red goalie Clark Bullington. Denison would clear and 1 minute later, Farinholt found the back of the net for his 32nd goal of the season, giving his squad a bit of much-needed breathing room.
Aurora would take the ensuing face-off, however, after Jack Barry came up with the ground ball, he turned the ball over with an errant pass. With 2:30 remaining, Speidel uncorked another shot that was saved by Aurora goalie Adam Holka. Just prior to the shot, the officials flagged Aurora's Barry with a slash, putting DU in man-up with 2:28 on the clock.
DU would patiently work the ball around with its extra-man unit on the field. Once the penalty was burned, the Denison offense would draw Holka out of the cage. With the goalie out of position, that left Fairnholt with an empty net and a hat trick for the sophomore middie.
Denison held a 44-20 advantage in the shot department and picked up 31 ground balls to Aurora's 22. The face-off matchup was relatively even. Denison won 13 of 23 as Eric Baumgardner took all 23 draws for DU. He led the squad with six ground balls.
Austin Campbell caused a game-high three turnovers and finished with four ground balls and Vita managed to tie Walsh for the team lead in points with five assists. Walsh tallied three goals and two helpers while Fairnholt (three goals), Speidel (two goals), Powell (one goal, one assist), James Meager (one goal) and Brian Miller (one goal) rounded out the scoring for DU.
Koziol led the Spartans with two goals and two assists. Obriecht tallied two goals and one assist while pacing the team with six ground balls and nine face-off wins. Holka was outstanding in cage for Aurora, racking up 15 saves. Bullington countered with six saves for Denison.
The win improves Denison's record to 19-0 while Aurora's season comes to a close at 16-4.