CLEVELAND — If the Michigan Wolverines had their wish, they would play every game in the great outdoors.
No. 15-ranked Michigan improved to 2-1-1 in program history in outdoor games with its dominating 4-1 victory over the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Progressive Field Sunday evening.
“It was a great spectacle,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Our team knows what it takes to play in a game like this. We’re coming off a good game on Friday, but this was not only an important hockey game, it is an outdoor game where you could easily be distracted.”
Michigan won its previous outdoor game 5-0 on Dec. 11, 2010 when it blanked Michigan State in the Big Chill at the Big House played at Michigan Stadium.
After Ohio State swept Michigan in November in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines completed the weekend sweep of the Buckeyes outscoring Ohio State 8-1 for the weekend.
“Let’s give credit where credit is due – Michigan is good,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “They played very well. They certainly were the better club tonight. I think their transition, goaltender, defensemen – their defensemen do a tremendous job.”
The Wolverines are 7-0-2 in their last nine games after a rough start to the season. Ohio State is on a four-game winless streak.
“Our penalty killing has been better, our [defensive]-zone coverage is better, our defense are playing stronger,” Berenson said. “Offensively, we are clicking.”
After a hot start to the season, the Buckeyes’ offense has dried up as Ohio State has only scored twice in its last three games.
“I think our kids competed, but not as a group of five on the ice,” Osiecki said. “I also think we have to go through a situation like this. Our [12 freshmen] have never been through it. The year that we’re having and up to this point, not really any adversity, we need go through that. We need to be on a stage like this for our program to go.”
Michigan had a 2-0 first intermission lead as the Wolverines really took it to the Buckeyes with first-period goals from Chris Brown and Alex Guptill.
Brown scored 7:31 into the first as he collected a loose puck that was blocked from a Kevin Clare shot and fired the puck through the five-hole of OSU goalie Cal Heeter.
Michigan took a 2-0 lead 13:33 into the first when Brown’s back-pass from behind the net of Heeter found Guptill waiting at the left circle. Guptill fired the one-timer past the glove of Heeter.
Ohio State opened the second period on a 51-second power play. With one second remaining on the man-advantage, Chris Crane scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season after taking a rebound from a Danny Dries shot and firing it past UM goalie Shawn Hunwick’s glove. The 2-1 ledger was as close as OSU would get.
Ohio State fell to pieces after getting on the board early in the second.
Derek Deblois scored 9:47 into the second after OSU failed to clear the zone and David Wohlberg picked off a pass and found Deblois wide open in the slot to give UM the 3-1 lead. The Wolverines took a three-goal advantage 28 seconds later when a puck fell off Wohlberg’s stick and between Heeter’s legs.
“I think they are a good team,” Wohlberg said about Ohio State. “We just kept bringing the pressure every single line. It wasn’t them, it was our stronger play.”
“We went down 2-0 quickly and that is something we have to learn from,” Crane said. “Hockey is a competitive sport and if you don’t come out ready to play, that is what is going to happen. I think we
need to take that and learn from that.”
Wohlberg’s goal chased Heeter and brought on Brady Hjelle.
Heeter allowed four goals on 20 shots against. Hjelle was perfect with 18 saves.
Hunwick stopped all but one of the 20 shots he faced.
Ohio State was without top defenseman Curtis Gedig due to an injury and forward Ryan Dzingel due to a violation of team rules.
Wohlberg and Michigan defenseman Jon Merill were both plus-4 for the contest. Merill was playing in just his fourth game since being suspended for the first half of the season.
“Having Jon Merill back in the lineup – in my opinion, I coached the kid in the World Juniors – is the best defenseman in the country,” Osiecki said.
Ohio State returns to Columbus to host Ferris State next weekend. Michigan visits South Bend to take on Notre Dame.