COLUMBUS — Midway through the third period of Friday night’s game against Ohio State, the Michigan hockey team was in complete control.
It had already poured 34 shots on Ohio State goalie Cal Heeter, a statistic countered by just 14 Buckeye shots. The Wolverines had come back from a two-goal deficit to knot the game at two. And the way they were buzzing in the Buckeyes’ zone, it seemed that scoring the winning goal was only a matter of time.
But in the blink of an eye, all of that momentum was erased. Ohio State struck with two goals in a span of two minutes and 18 seconds and held on for a 5-3 victory. While Michigan’s inability to capitalize on scoring chances kept the Buckeyes in the game, what hurt most was the Wolverines’ lack of consistency in the defensive zone.
“It’s a game of mistakes,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after the loss. “If you make mistakes in your own zone, you’re going to pay for them.”
Despite being outshot 45-20 in the game, the Buckeyes made the most of their chances each time Michigan had a defensive lapse.
In two of Friday’s goals, Buckeye forwards were wide open in the slot , one of which resulted from a turnover behind the net. Another goal occurred on the rush, and only one Michigan blue liner was back to defend the pass.
None of that could be said about the Wolverines’ 2-1 victory on Saturday, when the defense played smarter and tighter. There few of the costly defensive and neutral zone turnovers and odd-man rushes that were so obvious the day before.
On Saturday, Michigan goalie Bryan Hogan was just 8.5 seconds from earning his second shutout of the season. The only Ohio State mark was a desperation goal in the waning seconds of the third period.
The lone defensive miscue came on the power play, when sophomore Brandon Burlon’s turnover at the blue line led to an Ohio State breakaway. Hogan stopped the shot, and the Wolverines effectively kept the Buckeye forwards to the outside when they had any sustained pressure.
Hogan saw just 13 shots through the first two periods on Saturday. And even though Ohio State registered 14 more in the third period while it was in all-out attack mode, Michigan still played sound defense.
A major reason for the difference in defensive play was Michigan’s early offensive output. Ten minutes into the game, senior defenseman Chris Summers fired a wrist shot past the glove of Heeter from the point to give his team a one-goal lead.
“I think the first goal was really a big goal that held up for a long while in this game,” Berenson said. “It put us in a good defensive mode the rest of the way.”