- James Coller/Daily
By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published December 1, 2013
The hype and anticipation surrounding the start of the No. 3 Michigan hockey team’s Big Ten hockey tenure couldn’t have delivered any more than Friday’s 4-3 overtime win against Ohio State did.
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Alumni like Hobey Baker winner Brendan Morrison returned to Ann Arbor, fans packed Yost Ice Arena for the first sellout of the season, viewers tuned in from areas that aren’t exposed to college hockey and two rivals once again fought with each other.
“I thought a lot of our players might have gotten caught up in all the hoopla and all the expectations, rather than just playing the game hard,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson after Friday’s game. “But it feels good to win that game.”
So can Monday’s contest in Columbus exceed, if not match, Friday’s excitement?
After Friday, it will be a question of which offense shows up.
Michigan ( 1-0 Big Ten, 9-2-1 overall) has scored at least four goals in three consecutive games after averaging less than three goals per game prior to that stretch.
Sophomore forward Andrew Copp delivered the game winner in the last two minutes of overtime after the Buckeyes tied the game with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. Copp is tied with Ohio State forward Ryan Dzingel for the Big Ten’s scoring lead with eight goals this season.
Junior forward Alex Guptill and freshman forward JT Compher each recorded a goal and an assist in the win, solidifying another line which includes freshman Tyler Motte, junior Phil Di Giuseppe and Copp. Along with senior forward Derek DeBlois, Guptill and Compher’s line tallied 12 shots for a team lead.
The Buckeyes’ offense following Friday still sits ninth in the nation with 3.5 goals per game after exposing an inexperienced Wolverine defense. There were instances when freshman defenseman Michael Downing didn’t keep his stick on the ice to stop a shot or when no one crashed the net to clear out an easy pass from the boards.
But Ohio State scored only one goal at even strength, capitalizing on both of Michigan’s penalties.
Junior forward Andrew Sinelli started on defense in Friday’s game after junior defensemen Brennan Serville and Mike Szuma were scratched due to injuries. Even before the loss of freshman defenseman Kevin Lohan in October, the Wolverines’ defense has struggled to shut down offenses without being rescued by its goaltender.
Freshman netminder Zach Nagelvoort got the start Friday, but Berenson has hinted that sophomore goaltender Steve Racine could see time Monday. Racine hasn’t seen action since Nov. 16 after an injury kept him out for nearly a month.
But Michigan’s biggest problem could be the early week game, marking the first time any current Wolverine has played on Monday night. It won’t be a regular occurrence to see Michigan play on a Monday, but with TV stations sweeping up rights and the football game Saturday, the Wolverines had few options.
“It’s a little bit strange because we’re so used to playing Friday and Saturday,” said senior defenseman Mac Bennett.
And after the win on Friday, Michigan is certainly hoping it had the chance to play Saturday and ride the momentum from a classic Big Ten game.