ANN ARBOR, Mich. — To a non-partisan hockey fan, Friday night’s Michigan – Ohio State contest might not have been terribly pretty to watch. To Ohio State Coach John Markell, it was a thing of beauty.
Ohio State paired spectacular penalty killing and solid team defense to edge late-charging Michigan, 3-2, at Yost Arena Friday night.
“Our guys played well,” said Markell. “They played spirited and Joe Palmer played a great game. We won a lot of draws. We got pucks deep and we did a good job of penalty killing.”
“They (Michigan) average four goals a game and it’s for a good reason,” continued Markell. “You can’t run and gun with these guys in here. We watched tape on Minnesota and they tried, and Wisconsin tried. It doesn’t work, not with these guys.”
Markell’s beleaguered Buckeyes entered the game having won only one of their first eight conference games and were matched against the second-ranked Wolverines who were fresh off an impressive pair of College Hockey Showcase victories over WCHA perennial powers Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“The way we played last Friday night (against Western Michigan) was what got our confidence back,” said Markell. “We were disappointed after that game because we felt we played a good game. Then, we won on Saturday and we just carried it over. The guys are buying into what needs to be done. There are going to be peaks and valleys. Obviously, today is a peak. They (the players) gave us a base to work on – work ethic and systems.”
The Buckeyes played a classic road game, scoring early and then smothering the Wolverines high-powered offense with their solid team defense.
Tom Goebel scored the Buckeyes’ first two goals and Palmer turned aside 28 of Michigan’s 30 shots to spearhead the win.
Michigan fought back late in the game after trailing 2-0 and being shut out by Palmer for most of the contest. Chad Kolarik’s two late period goals pulled his Wolverines within one of Ohio State on each marker, but Palmer and the Buckeyes held on for the win.
Sandwiched between the Kolarik goals, Sergio Somma scored the eventual winner at 17:51 of the final period.
“I think we have to give Ohio State credit,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “They played a good road game. They played a good defensive game. They didn’t give us a lot of time or space.”
“Anytime you lose a game, you have to regroup and refocus,” said Berenson. “We have been watching (Kevin) Porter and Kolarik carry a large part of our offense in recent weeks and I think it’s important we that we get more balance in our attack, whether it’s work ethic or puck touches or a combination.”
Michigan (13-2-0, 8-1-0 CCHA) and Ohio State (4-10-1, 2-7-0 CCHA) get right back together on Saturday night for the second game of the weekend series.