COLUMBUS — Late in the second period of the Michigan hockey team’s series finale against Ohio State on Saturday, a point shot from sophomore defenseman Cam York deflected off Buckeyes’ goaltender Tommy Nappier and fluttered in front of the crease.
While a pair of Ohio State defenders stayed tentatively camped at the top of the crease, Wolverines freshman forward Thomas Bordeleau swooped in to collect the puck and tally Michigan’s fourth goal of the period.
The play reflected the teams’ two contrasting approaches in the game in the second period especially: While the Buckeyes waited, the Wolverines attacked. The result was a resounding 6-0 win for No. 7 Michigan (12-8 overall, 10-8 Big Ten), a far cry from Ohio State’s (6-15-1 overall, 6-14 Big Ten) upset victory the night before.
“Last night, there was definitely a lack of intensity and emotion and just energy in the game,” Bordeleau said. “(Tonight,) we all had energy on the bench, a lot more than yesterday, and it paid off.”
That energy, though, wasn’t apparent from the start. For much of the first period, the Wolverines controlled the puck in the offensive end but merely rotated it around the perimeter in search of a perfect opportunity that never arose.
That changed in the second period. Just over a minute in, a quick breakout gave Bordeleau and freshman forward Brendan Brisson a 2-on-1 opportunity. Brisson sent it across to Bordeleau, who tapped it back to Brisson, who buried the one-timer to break the tie.
“The game was in the balance, and then we score(d) the first goal and (got) the lead, and it does spark you,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “… Then we took over. Our guys started to really skate, and compete and play hard.”
Spurred by that first goal, the floodgates opened for Michigan. Tentativeness gave way to decisiveness, and hesitancy gave way to urgency. Shortly after Brisson broke the tie, a five-minute Wolverines power-play led to a one-time goal from senior forward Dakota Raabe. Not long after that, senior forward Jack Becker cleaned up a rebound on a shot from Lambert to stretch the lead to three.
As Michigan continued to bombard Ohio State with shots, the Buckeyes couldn’t find a way to do the same. As a result, after Bordeleau’s goal extended the lead to 4-0, the Wolverines entered the intermission with a whopping 27-7 lead in shots in the period — despite tallying just five in the first period.
“It really just came down to wearing them down throughout the first period,” sophomore forward Jimmy Lambert said. “Obviously, we didn’t score anything, but eventually, when you wear a team down, it takes a toll and you can start to capitalize.”
Michigan continued its dominance in the third period — adding goals from sophomore forward Eric Ciccolini and Bordeleau — but the additions to the scoreboard were mere formalities in a game that was already decided in the previous 20 minutes.
On one hand, the resounding victory reflects the Wolverines ability to bounce back. They were dealt perhaps their worst loss of the season Friday night, and they responded on Saturday with an enthusiastic win.
On the other, it reflects Michigan’s inconsistency. In the series’ second game, it looked like a team that could beat anybody. The night before, it looked like one that could lose to anybody.
The defining question of the Wolverines’ season will be which team shows up each night.