COLUMBUS — With a little over a minute remaining in Will Lockwood’s penalty for slashing, junior forward Dakota Raabe skated the puck into the offensive zone.
He brought the puck up along the boards, but then he lost control of it. A few seconds later, the referee blew his whistle — Raabe was headed to the box for hooking and Michigan (3-4-1 overall, 0-2-0-0 Big Ten) was headed for a minute-long five-on-three penalty kill against No. 13 Ohio State (6-1-1 overall, 2-0-0-0 Big Ten).
In the final moments of Lockwood’s penalty, Buckeye forward Tanner Laczynski brought the puck across the blueline. Standing unmarked at the top of the left faceoff circle, forward Michael Gildon waited for a pass. Before the puck even arrived, Gildon was setting up for a one-time slapshot. He beat sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann glove side, just under the crossbar.
In an instant, the Wolverines trailed the Buckeyes, 1-0, halfway through the second period. Though Gildon’s goal wasn’t what resulted in the eventual 2-1 loss Michigan suffered on Saturday night, its play through that stretch of the period offered no aid.
“I didn’t get a good look at it,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson of the call against Raabe. “I don’t know if it’s a penalty or not, but to put you two men down when you’re 200 feet from your net, I don’t know. We can’t even put ourselves in a position to take a penalty like that.”
The untimely penalties combined with poor puck management resulted in an offensive lull for the Wolverines. They tallied just four shots on net compared to the Buckeyes’ 13 in the second period. Bad puck bounces resulted in turnovers in the Michigan defensive zone and scoring chances for Ohio State. When the Wolverines did manage to clear the puck, the Buckeyes quickly regained possession and Michigan was back to playing defense.
“We’re not playing 60 total minutes of hockey,” said freshman forward Johnny Beecher. “And I think that definitely showed tonight, especially in that second period. We need to dial it in, and we need to take care of pucks. We’re just giving up way too many opportunities in the neutral zone. We just need to get pucks deep and get it on net.”
Headed into the third and looking to put its poor performance in the second put behind it, Michigan searched for a tying goal. There were plenty of offensive looks and opportunities, but the Wolverines failed to capitalize on them.
As more minutes ticked from the clock, the Wolverines’ urgency increased. With just over four minutes left in the game, Raabe connected with freshman defenseman Cam York as York made a push into the offensive zone.
When the puck found York’s stick just outside the right faceoff circle, he drove towards the net. York carried the puck behind the goal, and in one seamless motion completed a textbook wraparound to score the tying goal — and the first of his career.
“He had one in the first period,” Pearson said, “where he circled the net like that. We talked (about) if he has the opportunity to get around, just the way their coverage is, you can come in on that backdoor. Good for Cam. He’s a heck of a hockey player and he’s gonna have many more.”
Riding their newfound wave of momentum, the Wolverines continued their offensive push into the closing minutes of the game.
Sophomore defenseman Jack Summers settled the puck off the boards at the edge of the offensive zone. Desperate to keep the play alive, Summer attempted to pass the puck — but his stick didn’t make contact with it.
Ohio State defenseman Grant Gabriele reached out for the puck, pushed it between Summers’ legs and took off on an odd-man-rush down the ice. Gabriele fired a shot as Mann, who deflected it wide and right, to the stick of Tate Singleton. In a fluid motion, he slid the puck past Mann’s outstretched pad and the Buckeyes retook the lead, 2-1. In the waning moments of the game, the Wolverines’ attempts with an extra attacker didn’t yield an equalizer.
When the final buzzer rang, Michigan had been swept by its biggest rival to open the Big Ten schedule.
“The game never comes down to one play or an opportunity,” Pearson said. “I referenced the Ronnie Bell catch against Penn State. It doesn’t come to that. It’s, again, another tough bounce, another tough break, but we gotta pick each other up.”