COLUMBUS – Much like the football game at Ohio Stadium on Nov. 18, once the 10th-ranked Wolverine hockey team (23-11-1, 18-8-1 CCHA) fell behind at Value City Arena last night, it seemed like they might never make it all the way back.
After Ohio State (13-15-4, 11-12-4 CCHA) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, Michigan crawled back to tie the game, but quickly fell behind again just three minutes later.
But this time, much to the chagrin of the hometown fans, Michigan found a way to claw back into the game with a dazzling goal from Hobey Baker award candidate T.J. Hensick halfway through the second period. Before the final whistle, sophomores Tim Miller and Brandon Naurato teamed up for the clutch play Michigan couldn’t find on the gridiron, giving the Wolverines a 4-3 victory.
Skating up the left side of the ice, Miller found an opening in the Ohio State zone, and easily worked his way around the back of the Buckeye net. Looking up, Miller found Naurato parked out in front for the game-winning goal with just 1:08 remaining in the game.
After trading chances throughout the early stages of the game, the Buckeyes’ first two tallies came in the closing minutes of the opening frame.
Just as it seemed Ohio State had seized complete control of the game, Miller found the back of the net as time expired in the first period. After the puck bounced around the Ohio State zone, Miller shot the puck from an awkward angle at the Buckeye net, and goaltender Joseph Palmer couldn’t keep it out.
Just 29 seconds into the second period, Michigan tied the game, when sophomore defenseman Jack Johnson slid into the slot for an easy shot past Palmer.
But before the Wolverines could take advantage of any momentum built from Johnson’s tally, the Buckeyes regained control after taking advantage of Michigan turnover.
After working the puck quickly through the neutral zone, Ohio State’s Jason Desantis slapped the puck toward the net from above the right circle, beating Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer on the glove side. The shot hit the corner where the post and crossbar met, but the goal stood after review by referee Steve Piotrowski.
Neither side could muster much offense in the following minutes, but Hensick stole the show halfway through second period when he slotted a breakaway goal past Palmer. Senior captain Matt Hunwick slid the puck through the neutral zone to Hensick as he broke away from the Buckeye defense, making it look easy – as any award candidate should.
Despite coming out on top, Michigan struggled in two key areas that were marked as focus points by Michigan coach Red Berenson in recent weeks. The Wolverines once again struggled on the power play, going 0-3 on the night. Michigan was also outshot by a 35-25 margin.
If the Wolverines can manage a tie tomorrow night, they will guarantee themselves a No. 2 seed in CCHA tournament.