After a tough overtime loss to Minnesota last weekend, the No. 6 Michigan hockey team was looking to bounce back strong against Ohio State on Friday night. As it turned out, the Buckeyes rolled into Yost Ice Arena and stunned the Wolverines with a 7-4 upset.
Michigan got off to a quick start, with junior forward JT Compher scoring the first goal of the game at 16:19 of the first period. The goal was a work of beauty from the first line of Compher, freshman Kyle Connor and junior Tyler Motte, with each forward doing his part to contribute to the power-play score. Connor emerged from a scrum and backhanded the puck to Motte. Motte hesitated and drew in the Ohio State defender and goalie before finding an open Compher, who slotted the puck into the upper-right corner.
Five minutes later, the Wolverines hit paydirt again, with junior forward Alex Kile scoring his fourth goal in three games.
That was about all that went right for the Wolverines on Friday night, though. Michigan was hindered by Ohio State’s disruptive forechecking, and had several mistakes on defense that led to three consecutive Buckeye goals.
And after junior defenseman Nolan De Jong was sent to the penalty box for slashing, Ohio State scored its third and final goal of the period with 16.2 seconds left, quieting the Yost Ice Arena crowd and sending the Wolverines into the locker room with a one-goal deficit after their early lead.
The second period was more of the same, beginning with Michigan repeatedly struggling to clear the puck out of its zone. Ohio State continued to be aggressive on offense, and held a 6-1 shot advantage early in the period.
“We just were out of sync,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I can’t tell you what it was. Maybe our team thought we had the week off because we weren’t in school. We definitely did not play like a Michigan team has to play at this time of year.”
Halfway through the period, the Buckeyes struck again. The Wolverines turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and Ohio State’s Kevin Miller slipped one past senior goaltender Steve Racine.
Twenty seconds later, the Buckeyes chased Racine from the game.
After an extended scrum in the front of the goal, Brendon Kearney poked the puck into the net past Racine and several Michigan players. As several stunned Wolverines stood in front of the net, junior Zach Nagelvoort came skating in to replace Racine.
Michigan was looking for a spark but couldn’t find a way to get its offense going against the aggressive Ohio State attack. The Wolverines were so disheveled that Berenson temporarily broke up his first line.
And as they struggled, the players began to take their frustration out on the opposing team.
“Every time we play that team, something happens,” Berenson said. “We just have to keep our heads.”
Sparks flew in the second period when Connor got into a shoving match with Sasha Larocque, and both were sent off with minor penalties. The Wolverines escaped unscathed from the incident but were not so lucky when freshman defenseman Nicholas Boka was sent off on a five-minute major penalty for interference.
With 50 seconds left in the period, Drew Brevig slapped a shot past Nagelvoort, giving the Buckeyes a four-goal lead.
After Brevig’s goal, Michigan shook off its second-period malaise and came out of the gates strong in the third period. Less than two minutes in, sophomore forward Tony Calderone stole the puck from an Ohio State player, turned around and blasted a shot past the goaltender.
The quick goal seemingly gave the Wolverines the spark they needed, and they began to play much more aggressively. Nicholas Boka hammered home what looked to be a goal, but it was later overturned on account of goalie interference.
“They said that one of our players’ sticks hit the goalie’s glove just before the puck got into the net and kept him from catching it,” Berenson said. “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s what he said and that was his decision.”
Then, a five-minute major on Larocque gave Michigan a late opportunity that it took advantage of. The Wolverines executed well on the power play, scoring a pivotal goal to cut the Ohio State lead to 6-4 with 5:55 left in the final period. Freshman forward Cooper Marody found Calderone for his second goal of the game as Michigan pressed to close the deficit.
But the furious comeback ended when the Buckeyes scored an empty-net goal with 1:12 remaining.
“You can’t put yourself in a hole like that and expect to climb out,” Berenson said. “Give them credit. They came in here and they were very opportunistic. They made their chances count.”
Michigan will head to Columbus on Sunday looking to salvage a split of the series.