If there was any doubt that these two teams dislike each other, the Michigan hockey team and Ohio State put that doubt to rest on Saturday night.
It took until the second overtime period of the tightly-contested slugfest to declare a winner.
When forward Mason Jobst took a tripping penalty at the end of the first overtime period, it appeared as though the Wolverines (13-12-7 overall, 9-8-5-2 Big Ten) would receive a prime opportunity to win on senior night and, more importantly, come out of the weekend with five points against sixth-ranked Ohio State.
But seconds into the second overtime period, junior forward Will Lockwood took a tripping penalty, himself –– essentially neutralizing the penalty call on Jobst. A mental lapse by Michigan resulted in a breakaway for Jobst when he exited the penalty box. He capitalized on the opportunity finishing past Mann to give the Buckeyes (19-8-5 overall, 12-6-4-3 Big Ten) the extra point in second overtime, 4-3.
“We’re three on three and I just think we lost track of what was going on,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “We’re pressing to score and we’re not maybe in that defensive mode. We lose track of the time on the clock and the guy jumps out behind us and they make a good play, he gets that breakaway. The wrong player you want on a breakaway.”
After last night’s game, Pearson assured that his team would come out in the first period more energized.
And through the opening minutes on Saturday, the Wolverines were locked in, entering the offensive zone frequently and creating chances. That early offensive momentum was halted, though, after a five-minute penalty on senior forward Brendan Warren for kneeing 7:32 left into the period.
After looking strong on the penalty kill through the first four minutes, it was Ohio State that got on the board with 48 seconds remaining on the man advantage. Forward Carson Meyer received the puck in the slot and fired a wrist shot past freshman goaltender Strauss Mann’s stick side –– giving the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead.
Michigan’s offense picked up where it left off after the penalty kill.
Just three minutes later, junior forward Will Lockwood sprinted up the right side of the ice with freshman defenseman Nick Blankenburg to his left. As Lockwood entered into the offensive zone, he played the puck across to Blankenburg who was entering the slot. With defenders on his hip, Blankenburg faked backhand, pulled the puck back forehand and fired past goaltender Tommy Nappier to tie the game at one.
“I just tried opening up for (Lockwood) and then the pass kind of was to my feet,” Blankenburg said. “It’s nice that he just got it to me in the first place and then just kind of went to my forehand and had a little bit too much speed, so I kind of ran into the goalie a bit there. Then as he was sliding over, his pad lifted up a little bit, so I just slid the puck under there and it went in.”
The Wolverines entered the first intermission outshooting Ohio State, 11-7. Early in the second period though, the Buckeyes regained the lead. Forward Brendon Kearney held the puck at the top of the right faceoff dot and fired an innocent-looking wrist shot. Mann was slow to react on his glove-save attempt as the puck found the back of the net, 2-1.
Ohio State added one more five minutes later on the power play. After a strong minute and a half on the penalty kill for the Wolverines, the Buckeyes finally got set up on offense and took advantage quickly as forward John Wiitala extended the lead to 3-1 eight minutes into the period.
“We were good on that major until the last, just the last bit of it,” Pearson said. “They get that goal and then they get another one. Just a little bit of a blown coverage on it. We were good at times but poor at times. We lost the special team battle tonight, we lose the game. Last night we won it, we win the game. That’s how critical it is this time of year.”
When play stopped halfway through the second period, the Wolverines were facing a two-goal deficit with the momentum teetering in favor of Ohio State.
They emerged from the stoppage of play on the power play. And a minute into the man advantage, senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi cut the deficit in half to 3-2 on an odd-angled shot from the right side of Nappier on a feed from junior forward Nick Pastujov.
In the third period, the freshmen continued their senior night weekend heroics. After recording two goals in the third period on Friday, freshman Nolan Moyle found the back of the net once more for another game-tying goal. After having his initial shot attempt saved, he collected the rebound along the boards behind the net. He played the puck back into the crease, where it took a deflection off a defender’s skate and snuck past Nappier to tie the game at three with 10:25 remaining.
Tempers flared once more with 5:55 left. Sophomore forward Dakota Raabe was chasing the puck along the boards in the Wolverines’ offensive zone. He took a hit from behind this sent him crashing headfirst into the boards and temporarily knocked the sophomore unconscious as he lay sprawled on the ice. Defenseman Tommy Parran –– who delivered the hit –– was given a game misconduct, the second of the game for the Buckeyes. Cecconi was called for a two-minute roughing minor as he came to the defense of his teammate.
The Wolverines were unable to capitalize on the ensuing power play and went into overtime tied at three goals apiece.
With neither team taking the edge in the first overtime period, each team picked up one point. The game continued into a second overtime to determine who would earn the extra point.
And in the second overtime period, Jobst clinched the victory for Ohio State when the puck found him as he exited the penalty box. He finished past Mann on the breakaway opportunity to seal the game, 4-3.
“Tough points to give up, especially when it’s so critical,” Pearson said. “But tough play at the end, we just have to make sure we're more aware of what's going on there but overall I can't fault our effort, guys worked hard, but we just didn’t work smart.”