COLUMBUS — Early in the final frame, freshman forward Johnny Beecher crashed into the opposing goaltender while hunting for a rebound.
Though Beecher got called for a penalty, it seemed harmless, as the Michigan hockey team (3-3-1) held a one-goal lead. But the Buckeyes evened the score shortly after, when forward Quinn Preston positioned himself in the crease and redirected a pass past the goal line. The goal was reviewed for goalie interference, but it counted and started to change the game.
A few possessions later, forward Ronnie Hein finished the script with a shot from near the left circle that bounced off a teammates’ skate to give No. 13 Ohio State (5-1-1) a decisive 3-2 lead. The Wolverines couldn’t come back, dropping their second straight game on Friday night.
“The guy’s in the crease, you can see it. You have to allow the goaltender to play his position. They didn’t. That’s a bad call,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson about the review on the second goal. “But we have to play better. We can’t sag and then decide to play desperate once we get behind. And you know, third goal was just a lucky bounce. It goes off our guy in the net, but they’re putting pressure on the net and they got the break tonight. But let’s call it like it is. They deserved to win this game tonight. We have to be a lot better than that. ”
The Wolverines allowed two of the three goals off power plays, and know they must do better to avoid being shorthanded.
“Just kind of play smart, win those battles,” said senior forward Nick Pastujov. “Once they beat you one-on-one, you can’t take that penalty. … Even though you can’t control the refs, and some of them (the calls) we disagree with, they have a really good power play so we gotta do our best just to stay out of the box all together.”
Michigan received its first power play with five minutes remaining in the opening frame, but looked as if it would waste the extra man.
The Wolverines failed to generate quality shots for the majority of the power play. And in the dying seconds, junior forward Mike Pastujov got knocked to the ice behind the Buckeyes’ net thus seeming to take away the man advantage.
But then freshman forward Eric Ciccolini circled around the goal and found the older Pastujov in the low slot, who took a clear shot. The puck got deflected and looked as though it would leave the crease, but ultimately crossed the goal line to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.
Other than that goal, though, the opening period was rather uneventful. The Wolverines often struggled on breakout plays and couldn’t consistently maintain possession in their offensive zone either. But Buckeyes didn’t make Michigan pay until later.
“The mismanagement of the puck is — it’s catching up to us, and we’ve gotta learn” Pearson said. “We’ve gotta learn to get better at that. Too many times we’re just giving them the puck and giving them opportunities, so a little disappointed in that.”
Right after intermission, sophomore defenseman Nick Blankenburg got pinned hard against the boards behind the Wolverines’ goal line. This soon resulted in an opportunity for Ohio State, but the puck rang of the pipes.
The two teams then each had power play opportunities, due to tripping from Michigan and hooking from the Buckeyes, but neither converted.
Midway through the second period, and shortly following the Wolverines’ second power play, the defense faced the heat. Ohio State moved the puck successfully and Michigan spent considerable time in its defensive zone.
But the Wolverines finally got the puck out of the area, and redshirt junior forward Luke Morgan immediately raced down the right side after the loose puck. He skated deep into the offensive zone and sent a long pass to the crease, where freshman forward Emil Öhrwall tipped it in for the two-goal lead.
With just over five minutes to go in the second period, the younger Pastujov got called for tripping. And with six seconds left in Michigan’s penalty kill, forward Tate Singleton received a pass from the left circle near sophomore goaltender Strauss Mann’s glove side. Singleton capitalized to bring the score within one.
That goal was the beginning of the end for the Wolverines, as they couldn’t stop the ensuing flood.
“I think everyone knows what we need to do to play well,” said senior defenseman Luke Martin. “If you don’t, you shouldn’t be at this level. Everyone knows what they bring to the table, what we have to do night in and night out, especially on the road against one of our biggest rivals. Like I said, it’s just a mindset. It’s whether or not we want to take that step and be a contending team.”