Two late, back-to-back goals from No. 15 Ohio State sentenced the Michigan hockey team to its fifth loss of the year Friday night, 3-2. The 17th-ranked Wolverines (2-3-2-1 Big Ten, 6-5-2 overall) will look to salvage their Big Ten series at Yost on Saturday.
Senior defenseman Sam Piazza was the first to find the net 11:18 into the first period off assists from junior defenseman Joe Cecconi and senior forward Tony Calderone. Cecconi managed to corral the puck from the bottom left faceoff dot and send it to Piazza, who shot it past Ohio State goaltender Sean Romeo’s right shoulder for his first goal of the year and a 1-0 lead.
“It was good,” Piazza said. “It was good to get the game started off well. It was a good shift from all five guys out there, we had them pinned in their zone for a while. It was a good feeling.”
Early in the second period, the Buckeyes (2-4-0, 7-3-3) evened the score courtesy of forward Freddy Gerard. Defenseman Gordi Myer wrestled the puck away from freshman defenseman Quinn Hughes behind sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne’s net and lobbed it to Gerard, who finished it one minute into the second.
Michigan went on two back-to-back power play opportunities midway through the second period after the Buckeyes were called for tripping and holding, but it wasn’t able to capitalize on the four-minute advantage and the score remained knotted at 1-1.
The Wolverines ended the second period on the penalty kill after junior forward Brenden Warren was called for hooking with a 1:15 left in the frame. Despite the power play, Ohio State couldn’t find the net and both teams went into the third period tied.
The Buckeyes finally capitalized on a power play opportunity with 12:36 remaining in the third, with forward John Wiitala scoring off an assist from defenseman Wyatt Ege to give Ohio State a 2-1 edge.
Less than a minute later, Gerard sparked a turnover after stealing the puck from sophomore forward Nick Pastujov and shot it past Lavigne from the doorstep to give the Buckeyes a comfortable two-goal advantage.
“They got the momentum, you could see they jacked it up another notch,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “We couldn’t stay with them for about a five-minute stretch there in the third period. …We didn’t get much in the first — even in the second, through two periods — there wasn’t a lot of grade-As, we gave them a couple two-on-ones in the second, but other than that, that power play hurt, and then the bad turnover really took the wind out of our sails.
“They don’t give up much, and it was going to be a battle to get back.”
As a last-ditch effort, the Wolverines pulled Lavigne with 1:31 remaining in the third period for a sixth-man advantage. Freshman forward Josh Norris capitalized on the opportunity with 15 seconds left to play, making it a one-goal game.
But it was too little, too late for Michigan, as the Wolverines didn’t have enough time to make up the remaining deficit, falling to Ohio State in the first game of the weekend series.