COLUMBUS — Entering the weekend, Michigan had compiled a 18-5-1 record, defeating many mediocre teams along the way. But over the course of the season, when the Wolverines had faced the top teams in the country, they had struggled.
The Wolverines dropped games at then-No. 3 Minnesota and then-No. 2 Wisconsin over Thanksgiving Break. They were outscored in those two games by a combined score of 8-2.
In October, the Wolverines hosted then-No. 7 New Hampshire at Yost Ice Arena, and again they faltered. The Wolverines tied the Wildcats 4-4. That tie is the only blemish on the Wolverines’ 10-0-1 record at Yost so far this season.
After Friday’s 4-1 loss at No. 10 Ohio State, Michigan coach Red Berenson was concerned about his club’s play against the elite teams in the nation.
“We haven’t played well,” Berenson said. “We haven’t lived up to our record or our expectations. No question, we did not have a good game tonight. I can’t tell you the games are similar against top opponents because that was a couple months ago. (But) I can’t tell you that that was a good game by the Michigan team.”
On Saturday, Michigan finally stood up to a team that had a number in front of its name. With a five-goal second period, the Wolverines finally took a significant lead against a worthy opponent.
Even after a disappointing third period in which Ohio State clawed back to 5-3, Michigan escaped Columbus with a quality win.
“We gave up three goals in the third period, so it’s not like a total victory,” Berenson said. “(But) we played well enough to win that game.”
Grabbing Chad: On Saturday, freshman Chad Kolarik scored his second goal of the game with eight minutes remaining in the second period, and his first career Michigan hat trick was in sight. But Kolarik did not get as much time to score that third goal as he probably thought he would have. At the end of the second period, Kolarik was whistled for a game misconduct penalty for grabbing the facemask of Ohio State freshman Johann Kroll. Kolarik, by rule, sat out the entire third period and will be forced to sit out this Friday’s game against Northern Michigan.
“He’s not out there looking to start a fight or get thrown out of a game,” Berenson said. “He was having a great game. You hate to see a kid like that get thrown out.”
After a scoreless first period, Kolarik started the scoring in the second when he blasted a crossing pass from senior Eric Nystrom into the Ohio State net. Later in the second period, Kolarik exited the penalty box and skated across the ice toward the Michigan bench. When he was about halfway to his teammates, sophomore T.J. Hensick brought the puck out of the Michigan zone and led Kolarik with a pass that left him unimpeded to the net. Kolarik stretched Michigan’s lead to 4-0 when he beat Ohio State goalie Dave Caruso.
Notes: With an empty-net goal on Saturday and assists in both games over the weekend, Hensick has now scored in 10 straight games. His two points on Saturday gave him 12 multi-point games this season.