COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riding a stellar performance by Mike Betz, the Buckeyes snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-1 upset of Michigan in front of 11,000 fans in Value City Arena.
Doug Andress’ second-period power-play tally was the game winner. Miguel Lafleche and Dave Steckel also scored for Ohio State. Betz made 33 saves as the Wolverines outshot the Bucks, 34- 21.
“Obviously, I’m thrilled with the results,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I think people witnessed a very, very good college hockey game.
“I just think we played a good all-around game. That’s what Michigan does to you. You have to play your best game to beat them.”
After a scoreless first period, Lafleche gave the Buckeyes the 1-0 lead even strength early in the second, going to the short side of the net from the right of the crease, on a pass down from the left point by Eric Skaug.
At 10:56 in the second, Andress put Ohio State up 2-0 on a play that happened contrary to plan. On the power play and after a faceoff won by J.F. Dufour in the Buckeye zone, Andress said he was supposed to set up the play behind the net, but saw an opening right down the middle.
“I just carried it up the ice. I saw Dave [Steckel] in the middle, so I threw the puck at him,” he said. “He left it to me and I went to the net. I noticed the goalie’s glove was high so I threw it between his gloves and his pads.”
The Buckeyes came out “a little soft” in the third period, according to Betz, which cost the rookie goaltender his shutout at 5:31. Playing five-on-five, Andy Hilbert won the faceoff for the Wolverines in the left circle in OSU’s end and passed to Jeff Jillson, who then fired over to Mike
Komisarek at the right point. Komisarek’s shot beat Betz long and clean to bring the Wolverines to within one.
Steckel added the empty-net goal with one second left in regulation.
Before the halfway point in the last period, the Buckeyes were forced to kill off two consecutive penalties, and Betz was forced to earn his keep, stopping 14 shots in the third, including nine from within five feet of the net.
“It started out, I wasn’t as comfortable as I was last week,” said Betz. “The ice was bad … but as the game goes along you sort of find your rhythm. Midway through the second I was seeing the puck pretty well.
Buckeye assistant captain Nick Ganga said that Betz was “awesome” in the win. “I remember a play in the second period where he stopped Hilbert with a point-blank shot with his pad. That’s huge. It gives the rest of the team confidence. We know we have a goalie who’s going to make the big save when it comes down to it.”
Michigan head coach Red Berenson called the loss disappointing.
“Obviously, we’re trying to get into the hunt for first place, and it’s a big loss,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s a big win for Ohio State, and they bounced back from a stretch of losses.
“We thought we were bouncing back from the GLI, and obviously we weren’t there yet. In tonight’s game, we got a slow start and ended up playing catch-up. I thought we played well in the third period but in the other two periods we weren’t very good.”
Ohio State was 1-for-7 on the power play, while Michigan was scoreless in eight attempts. Josh Blackburn had 18 saves in the effort.
The two teams meet again Saturday night, and the rookie-heavy Buckeye squad has already learned to appreciate this rivalry.
“You know what? I was really pumped for this game,” said Andress, a freshman defender. “I was ready at 4:30 this afternoon. I had my stuff on ready to go over to the rink. It’s just something to look forward to. The bigger crowd – when Dave scored that last goal, it was so loud out there I couldn’t hear myself think.”
Betz added, “This one had a little bit more to it. Everyone on campus seems to take notice when there’s a mention of Michigan.”
With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 11-9-1 (8-6-1 CCHA) and put behind them a five-game losing streak that included two consecutive home losses to Western Michigan last weekend.
“It’s always nice to win,” Markell said. “Nobody likes to lose five in a row, and I didn’t think we were a team that was going to be put into that position. This was good medicine for us.
“We’ll enjoy this for about an hour, then we’ll start thinking about tomorrow night, because we know how hard they’ll come back.”
Berenson said that the Wolverines (15-6-3, 9-4-1 CCHA) need to have a better start in the Saturday rematch. “We can’t play one period and expect to beat a team like this in their own building.”