COLUMBUS, Ohio — One day after losing 4-1 to the Buckeyes in Value City Arena, the Michigan Wolverines returned to form, exploding for five goals in the second period and skating to a 6-3 win to lengthen their lead over OSU at the top of the CCHA standings.
After a scoreless first period, the Wolverines looked to make the game an old-fashioned rout after scoring their first two goals 16 seconds apart in the second period and adding three more unanswered goals, but Ohio State took it to Michigan in the third, outshooting Michigan 15-12 and netting three goals of its own.
An empty-net goal at 19:48 brought the final score to 6-3.
“Well, it doesn’t feel as good as it should feel because of the way we finished the game in the third period,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “We were shorthanded and we gave up three goals in the third period. It’s not like a total victory, but I think everyone would agree that we played well enough to win that game and not be hanging on at the end.”
One night after taking the blame for his team’s loss, captain Eric Nystrom tied with Jason Ryznar for the team lead in scoring in the game; Nystrom had three assists to Ryznar’s goal and two assists.
Chad Kolarik had two goals and a game misconduct, and Andrew Ebbett also rebounded from a mediocre Friday performance with two assists and solid penalty killing. Al Montoya made 26 saves in his 18th win of the season.
Ryznar said that the Wolverines “just kept it simple” in the decisive second period. “We got the puck deep, we limited turnovers and tried to work them down low. We got all four lines in there … and it just snowballed.”
OSU head coach John Markell said it was the combination of Buckeye mistakes and the Michigan “push” that resulted in his team’s five-goal deficit in the second.
“I think the second goal, coming so quickly and the way it happened, caught us reeling a little bit, and then they showed their offensive potential. They’re able to quick-strike it. I should have taken a timeout probably after the second goal, but I thought that maybe we had a chance to come back.”
Kolarik’s first goal at 4:59 in the second was a perfect tic-tac-toe, power-play tally. Milan Gajic started the play by digging the puck out from the boards left of the OSU net an shooting out to Jeff Tambellini at the right point. Tambellini fired down to Nystrom, camped at the right post, and Nystrom sent a cross-crease feed to Kolarik left. The rookie’s shot went to the opposite side to give Michigan the 1-0 lead.
At 5:15, Tambellini scored a pure goal-scorer’s goal, crashing the net after securing the puck at the far side of the right circle along the boards. Tambellini motored toward OSU goaltender Dave Caruso, moved around Caruso’s stick check, and tucked the puck into an essentially open net to make it a quick 2-0.
At 9:52, Ryznar capitalized on Ebbett’s feed from behind the net, turning and firing at close range to beat Caruso clean on the stick side for the 3-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Kolarik scored his second of the game and 10th of the season, taking a home-run pass from T.J. Hensick, skating in alone on Caruso, and firing clean for the 4-0 lead.
And at the 17-minute mark, Nystrom passed out from behind the Buckeye net to Eric Werner in the right circle. Werner turned and one-timed it, ending Caruso’s night and seemingly putting the game away for the Wolverines.
But the Buckeyes came out in the third as though they were still in the game, and they never thought to give up, said sophomore Bryce Anderson.
“We definitely didn’t think we were out of it. There was a point there where it was frustrating, where it seemed like every shot they were taking was going in. We did make mistakes and a good team like that is going to capitalize on it, but at no point did we give up or feel like we were out of it.”
Anderson assisted on the first OSU goal, which was the direct result of hard work on the Buckeye power play at 4:44. With Werner in the box for charging, the Buckeye power play looked like the unit that scored all four goals in Friday’s win, moving the puck and spreading the Wolverine PK. Anderson was able to shoot from close in, and Matt Beaudoin directed it into the net with a backhand to make it a 5-1 game.
Then at 7:32, Rod Pelley scored his first of the night when he picked up Tyson Strachan’s rebound when both teams were down a man, and at 12:37, Pelley scored an even-strength shot from the right point immediately after JB Bittner won the faceoff in the right Michigan circle and passed back to the waiting centerman.
Suddenly, it was a 5-3 game, and the Buckeyes continued to press but Montoya and the Michigan defense was up to the task, killing off Hensick’s penalty for cross-checking with less than 10 minutes in the game, and stopping everything Ohio State did for the final two minutes and 30 seconds, with Ian Keserich pulled from the net in favor of the extra skater.
“It goes to show you that against teams like that you have to play 60 minutes, and we played 40,” said Markell. “All that was left to us in the third period was for us to come out and win it, and I’m very proud of our guys. You saw what kind of team we have; we have a competitive team. They weren’t proud of themselves after the second period — it was enough to get us behind against a good hockey club — and we have to treat it as a lesson.”
Keserich was excellent in goal for the Buckeyes, blocking all 11 shots he faced in 20:30 of play, including a solo T.J. Hensick breakaway 10 seconds after the Wolverine left the penalty box, at 14:44.
“You have to give Ohio State credit,” said Berenson. “They’re at home, and they’re proud, and they came out in the third period and they took advantage of us and made a game of it.”
It was Hensick who scored the empty-net goal, touching Nystrom’s lob from the opposite end at 19:48. Nystrom’s shot would have made it into the net without any help from Hensick, but the goal did tie the Michigan sophomore for the league lead, with Pelley and Western Michigan’s Brent Walton.
Both teams were down a man in the third because of a skirmish as the buzzer sounded to end the second period. Kolarik and Buckeye Johann Kroll each received five minutes for fighting game misconducts. Gajic and OSU’s Lee Spector were also given two each for hitting after the whistle.
Both teams went 1-for-6 on the power play. Pelley said that the Wolverines “were really aggressive up on the points” during their penalty kills, a difference in tonight’s game from last night’s contest.
Neither coach was happy with the weekend split. “After last night, obviously you’re disappointed, so the focus had to be on tonight’s game,” said Berenson. “Our team put everything into this game and we got back to what we were. Somebody said that if you can split on the road and win your home games, you’ll be in good shape, but obviously to come here and give up two games would have been a big step backwards so I thought we ended on a good note.”
Markell and the Buckeyes were keenly aware of the league standings implications for this game. Last night, second-place OSU cut Michigan’s lead to just three points, but after tonight that victory is moot.
“Obviously, I’m not happy with it because we got the first [win]. You’re looking to get four points. We’re the one chasing them. They get the split and they remain five points. Now we have to hope for somebody else to do our work. We had the opportunity here to do our own dirty work, and we played five good periods of hockey.”
Next weekend, Michigan (19-6-1, 16-2-0 CCHA) is at home for two against third-place Northern Michigan, who swept Bowling Green in Marquette this weekend. The Buckeyes (16-7-3, 13-4-1 CCHA) are home next weekend against 10th-place Western Michigan.