COLUMBUS — Two bounces and 10.4 seconds were the difference between a series split and a sweep for the No. 11 Michigan hockey team’s series with Ohio State.
After leading by a goal in the final minute of play on Friday night, the Wolverines allowed a game-tying tally and fell, 3-2, in overtime. On Saturday, it looked like the Wolverines were headed for a rerun performance at Value City Arena.
But a heavy dose of puck luck produced an alternative ending — a 2-1 Michigan victory.
The Wolverine offense had a furious pace for the entirety of Saturday’s game, peppering Buckeye goaltender Cal Heeter with a season-high 48 shots. But it wasn’t until the third period when Michigan (8-3-1-0 CCHA, 9-5-4 overall), trailing 1-0, finally scored.
And the equalizing goal came in the most unlikely of ways.
Just over six minutes into the third period, junior forward Luke Glendening carried the puck along the right-side boards and into the Buckeye zone. He dumped the puck toward the net, looking to give senior forward Carl Hagelin a rebound opportunity.
Rather than a rebound, Glendening picked up his second goal of the season, as the rolling puck hopped over Heeter’s right pad to tie the game.
“I just tried to throw it to the middle because I saw Carl going up,” Glendening said after the game. “I don’t know, I guess you get lucky every once in a while.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson said it was “a good sign to get a little puck luck,” adding that it was well deserved since the goal did come on the Wolverines’ 38th shot of the contest.
“There was a sense that sooner or later one was going to go in, but you don’t expect it to go in like that,” Berenson said. “That goal was a big goal. Every goal is a big goal when you get 40-some shots and you only score twice.”
And with less than six minutes to play, good fortune struck again for Michigan.
Junior forward David Wohlberg took a faceoff deep in the Ohio State zone, and although he lost it, senior forward Louie Caporusso managed to get a shot on goal. The rebound trickled to the left side of the crease, where Wohlberg corralled it and lifted the puck into the open net.
Wohlberg conceded after the game that he “got lucky,” but it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
The Wolverines weren’t home free just yet, though. The Buckeyes had several golden opportunities to knot the score in the final minutes, including a shorthanded breakaway chance that senior goalie Bryan Hogan pushed aside.
And like Friday’s matchup, Michigan held a 2-1 lead when Heeter was pulled with a minute and a half remaining. On both nights, a Wolverine player was issued a minor penalty in the final minute to give the Buckeyes a 6-on-4 advantage.
In the final minute on Saturday with a man in the penalty box, the scene looked all too familiar for the Wolverines.
“I was talking to some of the guys on the ice, who were saying, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ ” Hogan said.
Added Wohlberg: “I thought it was going to be a rerun of (Friday) night.”
The Buckeyes (3-6-1-1, 6-8-1) were on the doorstep in the final minute, and when senior defenseman Chad Langlais was whistled for slashing with four seconds left, they took a three-man advantage.
Berenson admitted that he feared another last-minute breakdown when the Wolverines were sent to the penalty box.
“After what happened (Friday) night, you just don’t want to repeat,” Berenson said. “I’ve been in this rink too many times where you’ve had it happen too many times. … It’s amazing how many times we’ve had last minute, last-minute scenarios that have gone one way or have gone the other way. At least tonight, it went our way.”
But Hogan closed the book on the series by making the last of his 24 saves. Hogan picked up the win on Saturday, but he knew the team was “fortunate.”
With the Big Chill at the Big House approaching this weekend, weather and ice conditions could lead to a lot more puck luck for Michigan.