COLUMBUS — For a moment, it looked like the first goal of Jimmy Lambert’s Michigan hockey career might be a game-winner.
The freshman forward capitalized on an opportunity while goaltender Tommy Nappier was out of position. He fired a shot from the right circle that went through Nappier’s legs, and the Wolverines (8-9-6 overall, 4-5-4-2 Big Ten) took a 2-1 lead on No. 4 Ohio State in the third period.
But just 28 seconds later, the Buckeyes (13-5-4, 6-3-3-2) tied it up at the other end of the ice when defenseman Wyatt Ege found twine for his first tally of the season. Ohio State would go on to win, 4-2.
“Obviously, Lambert scoring his first goal was awesome for him and it comes at a critical period,” said freshman forward Garrett van Wyhe. “(Then) they came back and scored next shift. It kind of gets everyone down, but we had good leadership. (Senior defenseman) Nick Boka trying to cheer us all up and stuff like that, stay even-keeled. Obviously, hockey’s kind of a game of mistakes, and we ended up kind of letting them go there.”
And just a few minutes after that, the Buckeyes put themselves in the lead on a goal from forward Quinn Preston that slipped through junior goaltender Hayden Lavigne’s pads.
Michigan pulled Lavigne with just over two minutes to play and nearly tied the game on a shot from junior forward Will Lockwood that caught the left post of the net.
“There’s a reason they’re one of the top teams in the country; they don’t let you get to the net very much,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “I thought they did a good job of that all weekend. We really had to work hard to generate our scoring opportunities. Even tonight, with the goalie out, Will Lockwood has a wide-open net and hits the post. That’s how close it is.”
The opening stanza of the game came and went with little intrigue. Neither team truly threatened to score, and both Lavigne and Nappier held strong for their teams.
But in the second period, for the second straight night, the Wolverines were at a two-man disadvantage.
In Friday night’s game, Michigan got called for two penalties at the same time, giving the Buckeyes a two-man advantage. The Wolverines were able to kill off the entirety of both penalties and prevent Ohio State from scoring.
On Saturday, Michigan once again were down five-on-three after Boka was whistled for hooking and sophomore forward Dakota Raabe was also whistled for hooking 41 seconds later.
And this time, the Wolverines couldn’t stop the Buckeyes. Forward Tanner Laczynski fired a shot from just inside the left circle that Lavigne didn’t have a prayer of stopping. Just as it did Friday, Ohio State struck first.
“I thought we played a really solid game defensively,” Pearson said. “Had good goaltending. It came down to a couple breaks tonight a couple poor plays on our part, good plays on their part.”
Just over four minutes later, Michigan tied the game with its first power play goal since Dec. 31 against Michigan State. Sophomore defenseman Quinn Hughes slipped through the slot in front of Nappier and found Lockwood coming down the left wing out of the corner of his eye.
One quick pass from Hughes and a one-timer from Lockwood later, the game was even at one goal apiece.
The Wolverines didn’t lead the game until the third period, but it was a short-lived lead as the Buckeyes quickly pulled ahead and gained a lead they would not relinquish, despite how close Lockwood came to evening things up.
“I feel a little bit bad for our guys,” Pearson said. “They deserve better this weekend, but that’s sports and that’s where we are.”