On a weekend when everything could go wrong against fifth-ranked Ohio State (10-5-1 Big Ten, 17-5-4 overall), it did.
The No. 20 Michigan hockey team (7-9-2, 12-12-2) lost all momentum it had built up over the past two weeks in dramatic fashion. The Daily breaks down three takeaways from a dismal weekend in Columbus.
Not so special teams
On the weekend, the Wolverines went on the power play seven times, with no goals to show for it.
“We didn’t have one (power play) for the longest time,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson after the game Saturday. “I think they had three to our zero there for the longest time and … we had some good looks. Even on the five-on-three Jack Becker was all alone on the side of the net, and we’ve got to put those in.”
In Michigan’s 4-0 loss Friday night, the Buckeyes went on the power play three times and managed to capitalize on two of them.
While the inability to score on the power play isn’t necessarily a demarcation of an ailing team, the Wolverines’ defense on the man-disadvantage was certainly problematic.
Ohio State forward Mason Jobst even scored a short-handed goal in the third period Saturday that made fans reminisce about the Michigan defense at the beginning of the season that gave up countless breakouts form from numerous turnovers.
“We’ve got to be better on the power play,” Pearson said after Friday’s loss. “I think that’s an area that I talked a little bit before the weekend that that was going to be critical here. They scored on the power play, and obviously we didn’t.”
First line woes
In the Wolverines’ win over now-No. 12 Minnesota on Jan. 12 – which was the genesis of the recent successes that the team has seen – both senior forwards Dexter Dancs and junior Cooper Marody scored, with senior Tony Calderone recording two assists.
However, the line that has notched 76 points thus far this season was silent this weekend.
“We have to get back to our game and manage the puck better,” Pearson said. “ … You can see the goals that they got this weekend, we got caught out of position, we’re thinking too much on the offense, we turned the puck over in some bad spots that led to some of their goals.”
But historically the other lines would be able to pick up the slack for the top line from the likes of sophomore Jake Slaker and even from freshman defender Quinn Hughes.
The pair produced a late goal in the third period Saturday, but it wasn’t enough.
Despite a respectable 63 shots on the weekend, they were either unworthy of finding the back of the net or stopped by Buckeye goaltender Sean Romero.
“We created a couple things, but we just made the wrong play,” Pearson said Friday. “We have two or three options that we try and give the guys and then you have to play off of that and tonight it just seemed like the option was available to us, we just picked the wrong one.”
Added Calderone: “Yeah, we started off pretty well, I think we were getting pucks to the net, but they did a very good job of collapsing in the middle, and we didn’t get to the greasy areas enough.”
Romero, along with the rest of Ohio State’s defensive front, certainly had something to do with the Wolverines squandering some of their best options, as nothing seemed to work no matter how creative Pearson and the offense got.
Michigan will be facing more elite goaltenders such as No. 2 Notre Dame’s Cale Morris and will have to figure out how to work out its offensive struggles.
At the start of the calendar year, sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne all but solidified his spot as the go-to keeper. And, his performances in the past two weeks have been nothing short of miraculous, as his leaps across the crease have secured victories and strengthened a faulty defense.
If his recent efforts mean anything, it’s that he was the undeniable leader of the back line.
So, it may be reasonable to place some of the blame on him for the nine goals allowed against Ohio State.
Everyone knows the level that Lavigne can play at, and an all-around poor performance on both ends of the ice is ultimately the reason for why the Wolverines lost.
But nine pucks did find their way past him, and everyone on the ice is accountable for that.
“I think we were a little bit off-sync tonight,” Calderone said, “so I think once we can get in-sync and everyone’s cooperating together I think we’ll be fine.”
Ultimately, there were high expectations going into the bout against the Buckeyes and this weekend was certainly a misstep, but if Michigan can fix the power play and get back to the hockey they were playing two weeks ago, Calderone’s “we’ll be fine” will ring true.