Everyone knows the tradition of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. In football, The Game often decides the Big Ten Champion, and Ohio State has downright dominated the matchup in the last few years.
But in hockey, the rivalry has had a different vibe.
“They’ve been down a little bit the last couple years,” Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “In order to have a real healthy rivalry, both teams have to be playing well, winning a lot.”
By a healthy rivalry, Pearson meant one similar to Michigan’s with perennial CCHA Championship contender Michigan State – not the one with the Buckeyes, who haven’t finished above seventh in the conference the last two seasons.
But the rivalry is anything but one sided. The past three series between the two teams have been split, despite Michigan’s (8-0 CCHA, 13-1 overall) significantly better season-long success.
“Obviously, it starts with the football team,” freshman Matt Rust said. “Everyone just thinks it’s a football rivalry between two top powerhouses in football. It’s just as deep and just as fierce in hockey.”
That’s the type of attitude Michigan – which hasn’t swept Ohio State since 2004 – will need to bring to this weekend’s matchup at Yost Ice Arena.
It would be easy for the Wolverines to overlook a team averaging just more than two goals a game compared to Michigan’s four-plus scores a contest. And the Wolverines shined in their biggest test last weekend when they knocked off two top-15 teams, Wisconsin and Minnesota. While it’s impossible to look past those teams in preparation, Ohio State’s talent doesn’t compare to what Michigan just faced.
“It could be a trap weekend, definitely,” Kolarik said. “We just had a great weekend, and we’ve won like 12 in a row or something like that, so it’s definitely size enough to be something like that.”
But it’s not just the Buckeyes (1-7, 3-10-1), and their chance to knock off the nation’s No. 2 team, that have a lot to gain this weekend. With a sweep, Michigan will take over first place in the CCHA and will tie its best start ever.
Is there any way Ohio State could sneak up on the Wolverines this year?
“In the past, I might have said ‘Yes,’ but I think with this team they’ve shown so far that they’ve been real dialed in on the team’s they’ve played and focused,” Pearson said.
And if the intensity from the end of last season’s after-the-whistle brawl from a cheap shot on Wolverine Kevin Porter is a reflection, the Michigan-Ohio State hockey rivalry is anything but slacking. Unlike two weeks ago, Michigan looks as if they have a good chance of sending the Buckeyes out of Ann Arbor without a win.