Most people don’t expect the Michigan-Ohio State pigskin rivalry to carry over in magnitude from the football field to the hockey rink.
Well, here’s evidence to the contrary: 12 roughing and elbowing penalties, including 10 for contact to the head in two games and a small scuffle after the first period Friday night. Senior captain Kevin Porter, who had sat in the penalty box for just two minutes all season, was penalized twice as many times in Saturday’s game for elbowing and contact to the head.
Why? The Wolverines’ nation-leading 12-game winning streak was snapped Friday and, well, Michigan was playing Ohio State with Yost Ice Arena the loudest it has been all season.
“With a game with a lot of emotions like that, you obviously get a little too into things and you might take a slash the wrong way,” said freshman Matt Rust, who tallied a goal, an assist and two penalty minutes Saturday. “It’s kind (of) hard to walk away from things when your emotions are going so high.”
Last season, the second game of the series ended without post-game handshakes because of a late hit on Porter and an ensuing skirmish, but fellow-senior Chad Kolarik didn’t think that would carry over from last year.
While playing Ohio State likely exacerbated the situation, Kolarik said the Buckeyes’ frustrating style and the aggravation of losing led to the increased physicality of the game. Friday was also the first time Michigan was held scoreless for the game’s first two periods – another source of irritation.
“It was a tight checking game and everyone was getting frustrated on our side (last night in the loss),” Kolarik said Saturday. “They were getting frustrated (that) they were losing tonight. It wasn’t just because we were playing Ohio State, but they play a frustrating style and I think guys let it get to them.”
Powering down: It’s difficult not to blame the power play for Friday’s 3-2 loss. The unit went 0-for-8 and let up its first shorthanded goal of the season off a Kolarik turnover at the blue line.
But it wasn’t just an off weekend that had the fifth-ranked power-play unit in the country scrapping to a conversion rate just above seven percent (compared to 24 percent on the season). Sure, three early-game posts Friday didn’t help, but Ohio State knew exactly how the unit’s play was going to unfold at each turn and every pass – and the Buckeyes were there to stop the Wolverines.
The Buckeyes covered Michigan aggressively down low (“that’s our play,” according to Kolarik) and left the lone defenseman, Chad Langlais (no goals on the year) open at the point.
“Our power play is no secret,” freshman Max Pacioretty said. “They’ve been watching the film, so we’ve got to change it up. We’re working on changing it up right now.”
Notes: Porter notched just two assists and no goals in the weekend series, but still leads the country in both goals scored and points tallied. . After this weekend, every Wolverine who’s dressed for a game this year has notched a point except for freshman goalie Bryan Hogan, who made his debut between the pipes Saturday.