COLUMBUS — After the Michigan hockey team’s 7-4 loss to Ohio State on Friday, in which it gave up six unanswered goals, coach Red Berenson said the seventh-ranked Wolverines couldn’t put themselves in a hole and expect to come back.
Sunday afternoon, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Berenson found himself saying the same exact thing at the end of the game, as the Wolverines recovered from a three-goal deficit in the first period only to lose to the Buckeyes in overtime, 6-5.
“You can’t come on the road against a team like this and expect to come from behind from three-goal and two-goal deficits,” Berenson said. “It’s disappointing. I liked the way our team battled back in the third period, but we just gave them too many opportunities.”
Ohio State’s first-period scoring barrage started when senior forward Justin Selman was sent to the penalty box for interference.
Buckeye forward Dakota Joshua found himself open inside the left circle and ripped a shot toward the net. The puck hit the left post, beating senior goaltender Steve Racine on its way into the net to give Ohio State the lead.
The Buckeyes added two more goals in the period, both coming off Michigan miscues.
Sophomore defenseman Sam Piazza misplayed a bouncing puck, which allowed Ohio State forward Brendon Kearney to collect the puck and skate by him. Kearney rounded Racine with a deke and poked the puck home on his backhand.
Ohio State scored its third goal when forward Nick Schilkey caught freshman defenseman Nicholas Boka flat-footed, skating by Boka to give him a breakaway on Racine. Schilkey didn’t miss, and the Buckeyes went into the break up by three goals.
“We’re saying one thing and doing another on the ice,” Berenson said. “We’re just not playing well enough without the puck, and we got exposed defensively in the first period. They could’ve had five goals in the first period.”
For the first six minutes of the second period, the Wolverines looked determined to start the comeback, something they’ve done many times before this season. Sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski cut the deficit to two on the power play when he beat Buckeye goaltender Matt Tomkins from the point. But Michigan’s inability to clear the defensive zone came back to bite them again, and Ohio State scored two more goals via the sticks of forward Mason Jobst and defenseman Craig Dalrymple to stretch its lead to four.
“We’re all saying we’re trying to play better defensively,” Berenson said. “But it’s not showing up. It’s not showing up in our goals-against, our chances-against or our shots-against.
“We’ve gotta play better defensive hockey.”
The Wolverines wouldn’t go away, though. Later in the game, sophomore forward Tony Calderone cut the deficit to two with a backhand shot from the slot.
Michigan carried the momentum into the third period, as Werenski added his second of the game to cut the deficit to one, and freshman forward Cooper Marody tied the game with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
“Selman made an unbelievable play around the (defenseman),” Marody said. “I came off the bench and went backdoor, and the puck kind of just came to me. I knew the goalie was going to slide over, so I tried to put it on the other side (of the net).
With 2:07 left in the game, the Wolverines thought they had the game winner when Selman tipped a shot in front of the net. But after a lengthy official review, the referees waved off the goal, ruling that Selman used a high stick to tip the puck in, and the two teams went into overtime tied at five.
In overtime, Schilkey scored to give the Buckeyes the win on a broken play that saw Racine stop two point-blank chances.
Racine tried to poke the puck off Schilkey’s stick, but was unsuccessful, and fell to the ice, which gave Schilkey an open net to end the game in the extra period.
“For two guys to be in front of the net, me and JT, for (Schilkey) to find a way to put it in there is pretty heartbreaking,” Werenski said. “But it’s hockey, and we’re going to have to bounce back here.”
After a dominating 6-2 win at Minnesota last Thursday, Michigan seemed to have put itself in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten regular season title.
But with three straight losses since then, the Wolverines will head into the final weekend of the regular season clinging to the No. 2 seed and the last first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
And if this past weekend is an indication of anything, Michigan still has a lot of work to do to earn that bye.