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Behind Bennett's late goal, Michigan holds off surge to sweep Buckeyes

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 2, 2013

COLUMBUS — It was after the third unanswered goal, the one that seemed to awake a nonexistent crowd, when sophomore goaltender Steve Racine put his head down and fished the puck out of the net.

Suddenly the band roared, the fans stood and the seemingly insurmountable lead collapsed from underneath the No. 3 Michigan hockey team. Then, as the new line took the ice and Racine settled back in, a flurry of Wolverines flung the puck forward with a newfound sense of urgency.

Unmarked and streaking down the left side of the ice, senior defenseman Mac Bennett buried a perfect pass from junior defenseman Mike Chiasson to score the go-ahead goal, just minutes after the Buckeyes scored three unanswered goals in the third period to tie the game.

Michigan (10-2-1 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) nearly went to overtime for the second straight time, but held on for a 5-4 win, just like it did one game earlier.

“That last period is embarrassing,” said a dejected and sullen Bennett. “We have to be better, and when we’re up on teams like that, we have to put the dagger in them.”

Added Michigan coach Red Berenson: “When you have a 4-1 lead, you’ve got to play better than that.”

This was Michigan’s first Monday game since 1982, but it wasn’t the first weekend Michigan has struggled to put away teams. There was a 7-4 victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology, in which it allowed four unanswered goals, and a 2-1 win over Boston University in which a penalty shot was needed to break the tie.

Michigan’s offense scored more than three goals for the fourth consecutive game, but the offense registered just four shots in the first period.

Michigan took just one shot before it scored the first goal of the game, as the defense, still missing a trio of injured players — juniors Mike Szuma and Brennan Serville as well as freshman Kevin Lohan — struggled to push the puck forward with junior forward Andrew Sinelli filling in.

“We’ve got to be better (on defense),” Bennett said. “We have to play better defensively, and we have to make sure that when we are up on teams, we can put them away.”

Behind freshman forward JT Compher’s two goals in the second period, the Wolverine offense looked re-energized and poised to leave without being threatened.

Compher now has five goals in the past five games after scoring his first on Nov. 15 against Nebraska-Omaha.

The first goal, by Compher, came off a rebound from freshman defenseman Nolan De Jong’s shot near the blue line, nearly one minute after the Buckeyes tied the game early in the second period. His second also came in the middle frame, after he took the puck from the faceoff and slipped it past Ohio State netminder Logan Davis.

In what was a period otherwise dominated by the Buckeyes statistically, the Wolverines couldn’t find a rhythm, nor crash the net when they did manage to bring the puck down.

But when sophomore forward Boo Nieves crashed the boards, he fed the puck out to junior forward Zach Hyman waiting near the right circle to score off the one-timer 14 minutes into the contest.

Ohio State tied the game early in the second frame, as the Big Ten’s leading scorer, junior Ryan Dzingel, tallied his ninth of the season. Dzingel skated freely to the right circle where he flipped the puck past sophomore goaltender Steve Racine as a trailing Sinelli brought him down.

Racine, who saw action for the first time since he allowed three goals against Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 16, stopped 39 shots to frustrate the ninth-ranked Buckeye offense.

In limited action, Racine has surrendered three or more goals three times this season.

“I thought Racine held us in there,” Berenson said. “He made some key saves late in the game, but he didn’t get a lot of support tonight.”

Downing’s shot near the point early in the third period looked to have sealed the game for Michigan. His goal also was the first from a defenseman this season before Bennett’s late in the game.

Ohio State’s Max McCormick started the late charge with his shot from the slot to beat Racine glove side before David Gust and Tanner Fritz knocked in the second and third goals just minutes later.

The Buckeyes tied it up nearly a minute later, but Bennett’s late game heroics and the Wolverines’ urgency saved the game from yet another overtime.