COLUMBUS — Senior captain Eric Nystrom was bluntly honest after No. 3 Michigan’s disappointing 4-1 loss to No. 10 Ohio State on Friday night.
“I don’t think everybody gave everything they possibly had,” Nystrom said. “And that’s unacceptable.”
But on Saturday, Nystrom and the Wolverines (16-2-0 CCHA, 19-6-1 overall) responded in convincing fashion to a Buckeye squad (13-4-1, 16-7-3) that had tallied an impressive four power play goals just a night earlier. Michigan turned its weekend around with a 6-3 victory at Value City Arena. The win was clinched when Michigan exploded for five goals in just over 12 minutes during the second period. It was the Wolverines’ first win against a ranked opponent all season, and it held Michigan’s five-point lead over the Buckeyes for first place in the CCHA.
Chad Kolarik scored a career-high two goals — including the contest’s first score at 4:59 of the second period and the eventual game-winner, which put Michigan up 4-0 just 7:13 later on. But the freshman’s night finished after 40 minutes when he received a game misconduct for his role in a fight at the end of the second frame.
“(It was) maybe one of the best games in (Kolarik’s young) freshman career,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It was too bad he got thrown out. You could just see him getting more confidence as the game wore on.”
Senior Jason Ryznar had a goal and two assists for just the second three-point game of his career. Ryznar’s performance was quite a turnaround from his scoreless effort the previous evening.
“(Friday) night we had a meeting about (the loss),” Ryznar said on Saturday. “We weren’t happy with our effort in yesterday’s game, but we stepped it up (Saturday night). I guess we weren’t focused (Friday night).”
But even though the Wolverines entered the third period on Saturday with a 5-0 lead, Michigan’s showing on the ice wasn’t perfect in the split-salvaging win. Ohio State scored three goals in under eight minutes to pull within two before sophomore T.J. Hensick carried a long shot by Nystrom into an empty Buckeyes net with 12 seconds left on the clock. Nystrom ended the night with three assists.
“It doesn’t feel as good as it should feel because of the way we finished the game in the third period,” Berenson said. “You have to give Ohio State credit. They came out in the third period, and they took advantage of us.”
Kolarik’s game-winner came 12:12 into the middle period. Just after emerging from the penalty box, Kolarik took a pass from Hensick and skated into the Buckeyes zone on the left side. After looping around the defense, Kolarik beat Ohio State goalie Dave Caruso high glove side to give Michigan a commanding 4-0 lead that would hold up. After Eric Werner’s subsequent goal with three minutes left in the second, Ohio State coach John Markell pulled Caruso and inserted freshman Ian Keserich. Though Keserich didn’t allow a goal during his 20:30 of playing time, the damage had already been done, and the Wolverines emerged with the road win.
“We had a good team effort going,” Berenson said. “I thought we played a much better game (than on Friday). Our team put everything into this game, and we got back to where we were (in the CCHA standings). To come here and give up two games would have been a big step backwards.”
Junior Jeff Tambellini, who tallied a goal and an assist on Saturday, knows what Michigan must do to learn from the weekend’s games and improve over the long run.
“We need to have that killer instinct,” Tambellini said. “That’s the difference between blowing a team out and having them come back and giving them a chance to win the game.”