Going into the third period Saturday night, the Michigan hockey team — down 3-1 to Ohio State — had a mountain to climb.
That mountain became slightly less steep, however, as the Buckeyes committed two consecutive penalties one minute into the period to give the Wolverines a 5-on-3 advantage.
But this golden opportunity amounted to nothing, as the Wolverines failed to score. What could have been a chance for Michigan to rewrite the story of its weekend instead became merely another chapter.
Seven minutes after Ohio State returned to full strength, forward Matthew Weis fired a shot past sophomore goaltender Jack LaFontaine — the final nail in the coffin. A disappointing weekend for the Wolverines came to an end with a 5-1 loss to the Buckeyes (3-3-0 Big Ten, 8-3-3 overall), which followed a 3-2 defeat the night before.
For the most part, the first period belonged entirely to Ohio State. Six minutes into the game, Buckeye forward Christian Lampasso skated into the right circle, wound up and blasted a slap shot above LaFontaine’s right shoulder.
Ohio State had 12 shots on goal and 26 total compared to Michigan’s seven and 11, respectively, and the Wolverines (2-4-2, 6-6-2) didn’t help themselves either by committing numerous turnovers. Minutes after Lampasso’s goal, sophomore forward James Sanchez passed the puck straight to Buckeye forward Freddy Gerard, who had no one but the goaltender in his way. LaFontaine, however, reacted quickly to stop Gerard’s shot with his right pad.
The second period began much the same way as the first, as Ohio State took nine of the first 11 shots. But with just over 12 minutes left in the period, junior forward Cooper Marody skated into the middle of the offensive zone, put on the brakes and deftly backhanded the puck to junior defenseman Joseph Cecconi, whose shot ricocheted off the post and into the net to tie the score at one apiece.
But that score wouldn’t last, as giveaways again haunted Michigan. Only a minute later, junior defenseman Nicholas Boka lost the puck near the boards, which led to a goal by Buckeye forward Tanner Laczynski.
Despite this setback, the Wolverines appeared more energized on offense after Cecconi’s goal, as they proceeded to pressure Ohio State more than they had all weekend. On at least three occasions, the puck bounced loose in the Buckeye crease, but Michigan failed to react in time to capitalize. Ohio State goaltender Sean Romeo was beaten twice, but Sanchez and freshman forward Dakota Raabe both hit the pipe.
“They’ve been going in easy for us,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “You get to a weekend where they’re not and that means that you’ve got to play rock solid defensively and you’ve got to have goaltending too. That just wasn’t the case this weekend.”
This burst of momentum was then put to a halt when sophomore defender Griffin Luce was sent to the penalty box for hooking. It took the Buckeyes nearly all of the allotted two minutes to capitalize, but they eventually did — with 1:43 in the period and two seconds left on the power play, forward Mason Jobst scored from the point to put Ohio State up 3-1.
Thanks in large part to the man advantage, the Wolverines came out firing in the third period, and outshot the Buckeyes 13-0 through the first five minutes. But they had no answer for Romeo — who for the entire game saved 34 of 35 shots sent his way.
“Their goaltender was exceptional this weekend,” Pearson said. “I thought he was really the guy that stole the game. They had a lot of guys play well, but he was excellent.”
Lampasso, who opened the scoring, poured more salt into the wound, scoring on a breakaway with less than a second remaining.
Michigan carved out a few decent chances in the game’s final minutes, but nothing more. By then, the narrative of its weekend had reached a conclusion.