This weekend, the Michigan hockey team heads to Progressive Field in Cleveland to take on Ohio State in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff, the team’s third outdoor game in three years. This will be the third game between the two teams, after the Buckeyes swept the last series in Ann Arbor.

Wait — there’s a game before that?


Before the teams play on Sunday in the well-publicized outdoor event, they will first play in Columbus. While it may be easy for Michigan fans to overlook the game on Friday, the Wolverines (6-6-4 CCHA, 12-8-4 overall) understand how important that game is, regardless of whatever is happening on Sunday.

“We are behind in the standings,” said junior forward Chris Brown. “We have to look at Friday first, and that’s our main priority. Whatever happens, happens, then we will look forward to Sunday. But up until now, we are preparing for Friday’s game first.”

Don’t count on the Wolverines overlooking Ohio State (10-3-3, 14-4-3), regardless of what day it is. The Buckeyes are the No. 1 team in the CCHA, 11 points ahead of No. 7 Michigan, and have been on a tear all season. They have won all but one game since Thanksgiving, including that sweep of Michigan at Yost Ice Arena in November.

In November, the Wolverines might have overlooked a team that isn’t a traditional powerhouse.

In Friday’s game of the November series, Ohio State won with a ricocheted goal that Michigan coach Red Berenson called “fluky,” which made the difference in Michigan’s 6-5 loss.

On Saturday, the Wolverine penalty kill held out for the first four minutes of the five-minute major, then let in two goals 16 seconds apart in the last minute.

“They came in here and didn’t necessarily deserve to win the game — that winning goal (on Friday) from the corner was a bad goal,” Berenson said. “That was the difference in the game. We had a good game, and had enough chances to win, but we didn’t finish.”

Teams in the CCHA have waited for Ohio State to cool off, but Buckeye coach Mark Osiecki has done a great job in coaching his most talented team in years. Ohio State is first in the CCHA in scoring defense, allowing just over two goals a game. The offense isn’t too far behind, punching in 3.14 goals a game, good for second in the CCHA.

But the most concerning part of the Buckeyes game for Michigan will be the power play. The Buckeyes are second in the CCHA in special teams net at plus-seven, which includes the second-best power play in the conference.

By comparison, Michigan is ninth in the conference at minus-three, but has the seventh-best power play in the conference.

Last weekend against Lake Superior State, the Wolverines averaged half a shot on the power play. That’s not a typo — half a shot per power play.

“It takes time, but I think we have the right guys that can do it,” said senior forward David Wohlberg. “We just need to figure it out.”

The Frozen Diamond Faceoff will be a spectacle, as are most outdoor hockey games. If this game was played a couple months ago, Michigan could have fallen prey to focusing on the wrong game.

But since this is January, and every point is starting to matter more and more, Michigan seems to be focusing on Friday before heading over to Cleveland.

“It might be easy to overlook Friday, but at the same time, you have to think of it as a normal weekend,” Moffatt said. “There are still six points on the line, and we have to do what we came for. We are looking for Friday right now, then we have a day and a half to prepare ourselves for Sunday.”

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