Five of the best periods the Michigan hockey team has played this season have come when it was without key players.
The first — Nov. 11 against then-No. 4 Boston University — came when senior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort, senior defenseman Nolan De Jong and senior forwards Alex Kile and Max Shuart were suspended for one game for a violation of team rules. The Wolverines went on to beat the Terriers, 4-0.
Friday against No. 11 Ohio State, Michigan (2-6-1-1 Big Ten, 9-12-2 overall) was without Kile and junior forward Tony Calderone, who both have upper body injuries, and senior forward Cutler Martin, who was forced to sit out with an illness.
Yet, the Wolverines put together a stellar effort for two periods. Led by sophomore forward Cooper Marody, who tallied a hat trick in the second period alone, Michigan looked to be well on its way to an easy victory over the Buckeyes (3-5-1-1, 12-7-6).
In the third period, though, the tide turned quickly. Ohio State scored two goals in the first 11 seconds of the period to draw within two goals. The Buckeyes then added another tally on a power play deflection from Dakota Joshua to make it a one-score game.
The effort ultimately wasn’t enough, as the Wolverines held on to win, 5-4.
“We had to pick up the slack,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We had to play with some desperation. I think we did that for two periods.”
The game marked just the third time this season that Michigan outshot its opponent, as it tallied 38 shots to Ohio State’s 28.
The Wolverines received production from some unlikely sources, too. Just over eight minutes into the game, senior Evan Allen scored his second goal of the season, while freshman Adam Winborg notched his fifth of the year off a nice pass from freshman defenseman Griffin Luce.
“I thought they played solid,” Berenson said. “They played hard, they played the right way and they got rewarded for it. That was our team for two periods, and then in the third period, we let it slip away. We didn’t intend to, they took it away. And we were on our heels the third period.”
Freshman goaltender Hayden Lavigne earned his fifth win of the season, as he notched 24 saves. The first goal he gave up came off a somewhat unlucky bounce. When a shot from the point ricocheted off a Michigan defender, Lavigne lost sight of the puck, and Ohio State forward Tanner Laczynski capitalized on the easy opportunity.
In the third, Lavigne was faced with a strong attack from the Buckeyes. Ohio State scored twice in the first 17 seconds and ended up with 14 shots in the final frame. The freshman ended up doing just enough, though, as he made some key saves down the stretch to preserve the win.
The Wolverines will host the Buckeyes again Saturday, and with Kile and Calderone likely out again, they will need to put together another strong effort to earn a series victory. According to Marody, the key to their consistency will be the intensity they showcased in the first two periods Friday night.
“Just keeping each other accountable and the constant reminders of how we can play and how we have to play to win,” Marody said. “We saw when we let off the gas pedal in the third period what happened, so we’ve got to continue to just play like we did in the first and second period.”