Michigan got to the net early and often on Saturday night.
The No. 9 Wolverines (8-6 overall, 6-6 Big Ten) beat Ohio State (4-9-1, 4-8), 5-0, to finish the weekend. It was Michigan’s first sweep since its second series of the season against Wisconsin.
“We got pucks and people to the net tonight, and that’s good to see,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said.
Unlike Friday’s win, Michigan’s offense looked aggressive from the second it hit the ice.
Within seconds of the first face-off — a face-off that the Buckeyes won — sophomore forward Johnny Beecher found the puck and skated out through center ice unobstructed. The shot didn’t go in, but he got another chance before too long.
Two and a half minutes into the game, Ohio State lost possession in its offensive zone and Beecher saw his opportunity. He took another breakaway, and, this time, he made sure the Wolverines were put on the board with a shot from the bottom of the left circle.
The Wolverines got the first power play opportunity of the game when senior forward Michael Pastujov was slammed into the boards along Ohio State’s red line.
The Buckeyes’ penalty kill unit packed the crease, but Michigan sent shot after shot into traffic. Freshman defenseman Owen Power eventually extended the Wolverines’ lead with a shot fired from center ice just inside the blue line.
“I think we did a good job just playing fast and getting pucks in behind and retrieving those pucks off of shots,” Power said.
Michigan gave Ohio State its own power play before the period ended, but the Wolverines were efficient on the penalty kill, bringing the puck back to Ohio State’s goal before the Buckeyes could set up their power play formation.
While the score was 2-0 by the end of the first frame, Michigan had other dangerous shots that could have made the score even higher without several impressive saves from Ohio State’s Tommy Nappier.
At the start of the second period, Michigan had trouble getting the puck behind Ohio State’s blue line, a problem that challenged the Wolverines throughout Friday’s match-up.
However, the Wolverines regained their rhythm on a second power play play. From the same spot as Power’s earlier power-play goal, Pastujov got another puck past Nappier, bringing the score to 3-0. With their momentum restored, Michigan struggled less with zone entry through the remainder of the period.
Junior forward Garrett Van Wyhe put another puck between the pipes a few minutes later, at which point the Buckeyes pulled Nappier from goal in favor of Ryan Snowden.
“We’re getting goals from a lot of different people right now and that’s what we like,” Pearson said. “We want to make sure we continue that, that everybody gets involved.”
As the Wolverines pulled away with the lead, tensions seemed to rise on the ice. First, Ohio State committed a cross-checking penalty. Then, less than a minute later, Pastujov was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Immediately after the penalty was killed, sophomore defenseman Keaton Pehrson fired a puck into traffic where it was deflected by senior forward Jack Becker before sliding past Snowden. By the end of the second period, Michigan had almost twice as many shots as the Buckeyes with 29 and 16, respectively.
The penalties continued to come as the third period began. The teams were called for three simultaneous penalties — two from freshman forward Brendan Brisson and one from sophomore defenseman Nick Blankenburg — putting the Wolverines back on the penalty kill.
Just after the penalty was killed, Ohio State was called for roughing, giving Michigan a power play of its own that it wasn’t able to convert. The game remained physical all the way through. By the end, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes had a combined 13 penalties, six of which came in the third period.
Through all the penalties, Michigan’s penalty kill remained strong — “outstanding” in Pearson’s words — a testament to the increasing defensive skill of the Wolverines’ team.
“If we can play just as hard without the puck as we do with the puck, I think we’ll be in good shape,” Pearson said.
Pearson said he wasn’t happy with how his team finished the game. The Buckeyes got several strong shots against junior goaltender Strauss Mann, but Ohio State didn’t find success even with two late-game power plays, ending the game scoreless.
“I think our guys are starting to buy in,” Pearson said. “They’re starting to buy in as a group now. If you give up one, if you don’t give up any, you have a pretty good chance to win.”