ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It was ping-pong on ice.
The goals went back and forth between No. 6 Michigan and Ohio State until Jack Johnson gave the Wolverines a 4-3 lead late in the second period. Andrew Cogliano fought off a Buckeye defenseman and worked the puck to Johnson, who stepped in from the point and rocketed a shot by Dave Caruso.
It seemed Michigan went ahead by two goals a few minutes later when David Rohlfs found a loose puck in front of Caruso and batted it by the Buckeye netminder. The referee waved the goal off, saying the whistle blew before the puck crossed the line.
The chance to build on the lead didn’t come again for the Wolverines, as the Buckeyes turned the table for good, scoring two quick goals en route to a 7-5 victory at Yost Ice Arena.
“Sometimes you don’t want the intermission to come,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “You get the momentum, and then you lose it.”
Ohio State tied the game just over a minute into the third period. Andrew Schembri scored his second of the night, sending a shot in the top left corner that bounced out of the net as quickly as it was shot in.
The Buckeyes took the lead 40 seconds later when Matt Waddell beat Sauer stick-side from a bad angle. Noah Ruden replaced Sauer immediately following the goal. Sauer had allowed five goals on 26 shots.
“They had a great third period and we came out sluggish,” Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett said. “They score two early goals and that killed us.”
But Michigan didn’t roll over immediately.
David Rohlfs rushed down the right wing and sent a perfect shot over Caruso’s shoulder to tie the game at 5-5 with 14 minutes left in the game. But it was a last gasp from Michigan, which failed to score on two power-play chances, while also giving up a game-winning shorthanded goal midway through the period.
“We could have tied the game,” Berenson said. “We could have won the game. But do you deserve to? Do you think you played well enough? You can’t give up six goals and expect to beat anybody. But when you score five you should come up with something.”
Kevin Porter fumbled the puck deep in the Buckeye zone, allowing Kenny Bernard to bust out down the left wing and beat Ruden over the left shoulder.
With 36 seconds left, Matt Hunwick had a point shot blocked, giving Dan Knapp a clear shot for empty net to seal the game at 7-5.
The high-scoring game wasn’t expected from Ohio State, which scored just two goals last weekend in a series split with Notre Dame, and is averaging just 2.5 goals per game. The Buckeyes usually rely on Caruso and a tight defense to carry the play.
“We went for it a little bit tonight,” Ohio State coach John Markell said. “We (still) put it in the defenseman and goalie’s hands. As long as you break at the right time, you can create gaps and leaps for yourself, and that’s what our guys did tonight.”
The end-to-end scoring started just 53 seconds into the game, when Tom Fritsche split the defensive pairing of Johnson and Hunwick before backhanding the puck past Sauer.
Ebbett scored twice in less than two minutes to erase the Buckeyes’ lead. His second came off of a shorthanded breakaway where he dangled the puck left before sneaking it in the right side.
But Michigan’s lead didn’t last long. With Johnson nagging him from behind, freshman Nick Biondo broke into the Wolverine zone and scored his first career goal in just his third game.
Brandon Kaleniecki got the next equalizer, capitalizing on a giveaway deep in the Buckeye zone. Kaleniecki has six goals in four games since returning from injury on Jan. 27 against Michigan State.
Just 20 seconds later, the Buckeyes knotted the game up again when Fritsche found Schembri at the tip of the crease for an easy tap-in.
The teams faceoff again tomorrow at Yost. With the win, the Buckeyes pulled within a point of the Wolverines, who are tied for second in the CCHA with Lake Superior State at 23 points.
“I think our team really feels like it’s do or die out there this weekend,” Waddell said. “The CCHA is so close, and Michigan’s only a bit ahead of us.”