COLUMBUS, Ohio — This has been unlike any year that Michigan coach Red Berenson has had to face in recent history.
Barring winning the CCHA playoffs, Michigan will miss its first NCAA tournament since 1990.
That said, nnothing can salvage a season like sweeping your rivals.
Three weeks after Michigan swept Michigan State, the Wolverines came to Columbus and finished a two-game sweep of the Buckeyes by defeating Ohio State 6-3 Saturday evening.
“I told their coach that is probably the best weekend of hockey Michigan has played all year,” Berenson said. “For whatever reason, it was a good weekend for us. The penalty killing was good, the power play was good, our second periods were good, our third period tonight was one of our better periods all year.”
As the two squads transition from the CCHA to the Big Ten, Michigan has the upper hand over Ohio State. Michigan has won five straight in Ohio over the Buckeyes dating back to 2011.
“We’re going to see a lot more of Ohio State in the future,” Berenson said. “Nevertheless, it was a good weekend for us.”
Ohio State attracted a season-high crowd of 9,278 for its regular-season home finale. The Buckeyes have not won their final regular-season home game since 2007 when they knocked off the Wolverines.
Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said he was concerned about morale after the sweep.
“This team is resilient, this team always has a good response,” Osiecki said. “I thought our response tonight was good. I thought our forwards did a pretty good job overall.”
Despite his struggles coming in, Steve Racine played well between pipes this weekend for Michigan. He stopped 25 of 28 shots Saturday and gave his squad a chance to win.
Michigan forward Alex Guptill broke a 3-3 stalemate by weaving through the defense and finding the five hole of Ohio State goalie Brady Hjelle 5:25 into the third period.
“It is easy to point the finger at the goalie all the time,” Guptill said. “When it comes down to it, it was the whole team. Forwards played better not only offensively, but defensively.”
Ohio State’s Tanner Fritz did all he could do to keep the Buckeyes in the game. He had two goals and an assist in a losing effort, but in the process, becomes the CCHA’s second leading point scorer with 32 points.
Fritz got the Buckeyes on the board 7:58 into the first on the power play as his slapper from between the circles beat the glove of Racine. The Wolverines knotted the game at one 21 seconds later as Andrew Copp capitalized off Ohio State defender Devon Krogh’s turnover and beat Hjelle.
Michigan took a 2-1 advantage less than four minutes later as Buckeye defender Brandon Martell coughed up the puck right in front of Hjelle. Justin Selman took the puck and fired it past Hjelle.
Ohio State tied the game at two with 4:12 left in the first as Fritz’s second goal of the evening once again beat Racine’s glove.
Michigan got a fortunate bounce 2:59 into the second as Phil Di Giuseppe fired a shot from beneath the goal line and went off the leg of Ohio State defender Sam Jardine and through the five hole of Hjelle. Ohio State tied the game at three 2:17 later as Max McCormick took a pass from Fritz and beat the stick of Racine.
“We felt good,” Osiecki said about the mood in the second intermission. “You look at those three [Michigan] goals, they were literally gift-wrapped. It was like Christmas.”
After Guptill’s goal, Andrew Sinelli and Di Giuseppe both added insurance goals in the third period.
Michigan defender Lee Moffie, a San Jose Sharks prospect, was a plus-6 for the contest.