DETROIT — When Mike Cammalleri scored at 5:23 in overtime to give Michigan a 2-1 win over Ohio State in the first semifinal game of the CCHA Super Six, the story of this hard-fought, gritty game became as much about officiating as it did about the tenacity of the Buckeyes and the perseverance of the Wolverines.
Cammalleri’s goal came on the power play, with OSU’s Yan Des Gagne in the box for holding. The penalty on Des Gagne was called just after Ohio State successfully killed off Paul Caponigri’s slashing penalty, called 42 seconds into OT.
“It’s tough to take,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “It’s hard to beat a team like that five-on-four.”
Even Michigan head coach Red Berenson was sympathetic. “I told Coach Markell that it’s a tough way to lose a game.”
Tougher still when both overtime penalties were called far away from the play. Toughest of all was what led to Cammalleri’s breakaway game-winner.
With Des Gagne in the box, Ohio State’s penalty killers were doing what they had all night, handling Michigan’s power play with an aggressive forecheck. That’s what R.J. Umberger was doing in the Michigan end on that PK, forechecking to prevent the Wolverines from moving up ice.
One thing stopped Umberger from helping turn this OSU penalty kill into a successful one: Mike Komisarek, who first sat on Umberger near the boards close to the right Michigan faceoff circle, then held each of Umberger’s legs, then gave him a shove with his stick to prevent the OSU sophomore from jumping into play as John Shouneyia and Mike Cammalleri broke into the Buckeye zone the other way.
Shouneyia sent a cross-crease pass from left to right to Cammalleri, and Cammalleri put it past OSU netminder Mike Betz midway up on the right side, clean.
Game over. But what a game.
“Obviously it was a close game and a hard-fought game,” said Berenson. “I thought we were the sluggish team tonight and they were the team with the momentum, even though they played last night.”
“I want to congratulate Michigan on their win,” said Markell. “Obviously, it’s really upsetting to our players that we played the overtime mostly shorthanded and the last few minutes of the third period, but I thought we had a great effort by our guys. They came to play, especially on such a short turnaround.”
It was Cammalleri who initially put the Wolverines on the board at 9:05 in the first, a blast from the right circle that hit Betz’s left leg and ricocheted into the net.
Ohio State evened the score at 19:26 in the second, on a three-on-two breakaway led by Paul Caponigri. Caponigri muscled his way past the two Wolverine defenders and the puck popped up toward May. May plucked the disk from midair, past it up to himself in the left circle, and fired past Josh Blackburn low on the short side.
That was all the scoring for regulation — unless you count Dwight Helminen’s waved-off tally in the second period — until Cammalleri found paydirt again in overtime.
“It’s good to see Mike Cammalleri step up this time of year,” said Berenson.
Michigan had a number of chances to go ahead throughout the game, as the Wolverines had five power plays to Ohio State’s one. Berenson said that Michigan’s inability to capitalize on the PP during regulation had as much to do with OSU as Michigan.
“We knew their penalty-killing forecheck was tough. We tried not to put the fear of God in our power play, but maybe we should have. Once you don’t get in the zone clean, then you start improvising and we did a lot of that trying to get the puck into the zone. Ohio State did a great job in their PK forecheck.”
OSU goaltender Mike Betz made 32 saves in the contest, and at times his play seemed Herculean compared with his game against Alaska-Fairbanks Friday.
“Something happened last night where I really couldn’t focus for a couple of periods, and I felt like I was playing my game tonight,” said Betz. That “something” was Nanook Aaron Voros, who ran the OSU goaltender early in that contest, leading to OSU’s first goal last night.
Michigan (25-10-5) will play the winner of the NMU-MSU Semifinal game in the CCHA Championship game Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. in Joe Louis Arena.
The Buckeyes (20-16-4) head back to Columbus feeling as though they were robbed.
“We played a great game today, and nobody can take that away from us,” said OSU captain and senior Jason Crain, “but at the same time it hurts a little bit more because, obviously, of the shady calls in overtime, back away from the play. That’s a ref stepping over his boundaries and taking the game. It’s very disappointing.”