COLUMBUS — “Our powerplay has been our salvation.
That’s the best part of our offense, maybe the only part of
our offense, and that’s where it all starts.”

Mira Levitan
Sophomore Jeff Tambellini is tied for the team lead with three powerplay goals, but Ohio State denied him any significant chances with the man advantage this weekend. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

— Michigan coach Red Berenson on Nov. 8 following a
weekend series in which the Wolverines’ converted 6-of-14
powerplay opportunities against Ferris State.

Entering last weekend, Michigan had scored at least one
powerplay goal in each of the season’s 10 games. The
Wolverines had notched almost as many goals with the man advantage
(19) as they had at even strength (20). With 12 powerplay tallies
in conference play, Michigan stood head, shoulders, waist, legs and
feet above the rest of the CCHA on the man advantage, as the only
team with a double-digit powerplay sum (Miami and Michigan State
were tied for second with nine each), prompting Berenson’s
praise after the Ferris State series.

But when the Wolverines traveled south to Columbus for a
two-game series, their vaunted powerplay headed an inauspiciously
similar direction. A stingy Ohio State penalty kill — ranked
first in the CCHA — silenced Michigan’s celebrated
unit.

“You’ve got to hand it to their penalty
killers,” Berenson said. “They blocked shots, they
pressured the puck — they were well-coached, well-prepared
and they shut us down. We didn’t handle it well.”

Although Michigan split the series, its powerplay looked dismal
both days. Going 0-for-8 on the weekend, the Wolverines could
muster just 10 shots on goal, and few were quality attempts.
Michigan lacked its usual fluidity with the extra man and had
trouble keeping the puck in the Buckeyes’ zone.

“We got rattled,” Berenson said. “We made some
poor passes, we gave the puck away, we missed our shot. We had a
couple of chances, and we weren’t sharp.”

Forward Jeff Tambellini — Michigan’s leading goal
scorer with nine — usually sits at the point and plays a big
part in the Wolverine powerplay. But, the sophomore proved
ineffective, logging just three shots in his third career weekend
series without a goal or assist.

Ohio State’s biggest penalty kill of the weekend came at
the end of the second period on Saturday. Holding a 3-1 lead, the
Buckeyes were assessed with a couple penalties that placed them in
a precarious position: Dave Barton received a two-minute minor for
holding the stick with 5:17 left in the period, and 20 seconds
later, Chris Olsgard was slapped with a five-minute major for
hitting from behind. But Ohio State escaped Michigan’s
initial 5-on-3 advantage unscathed and managed to shut down the
Wolverines. The Buckeyes even scored a shorthanded goal in the
remaining three minutes of 5-on-4 play.

“We looked like we’d never passed the puck out
there,” junior alternate captain Eric Nystrom said. “We
had a great chance on the five-minute powerplay. I think we might
have got one or two shots on that, and that’s hats off to
their penalty kill also.”

“That was a huge inspiration for the rest of the
game,” Ohio State forward Scott May said. “It was a
good chance for them to get back in the game.”

Ohio State coach John Markell credited his players’
exceptional hockey sense for the Buckeyes’ penalty kill
success.

“It’s all about reading and reacting,” Markell
said. “We work hard at it, and we knew that it could be a
difference-maker.”

 

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