COLUMBUS, Ohio — No. 13 Michigan closed out its regular season rivalry with Ohio State on Sunday by earning another one-goal victory, 4-3 at Nationwide Arena.
Three of the four games the teams played were one-goal Wolverines victory; the other was a tie on Friday after which the Buckeyes won the shootout.
Special teams played a critical role on Sunday, with the Wolverines going 3-for-4 on the power play, while Ohio State was 1-for-5. The Wolverines established a two-goal lead with back-to-back power-play tallies early in the opening stanza and closed things out with the game-winning goal netted on the man advantage as well.
“That was huge,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “When you’re on the road, you have a home team that is ready to complete a sweep and I thought our power play, you know, we scored right away on the power play. It was within 15 seconds on both [first-period] power plays we scored. I can’t tell you we were out-playing them but we got three power-play goals and that was the difference.”
Early in the first frame, Ohio State’s Max McCormick was sent to the penalty box for interference, and the Wolverines wasted no time in capitalizing. Just 18 seconds later, Alex Kile deflected Andrew Copp’s shot from the left circle past Ohio State netminder Matt Tomkins to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.
Less than five minutes later, with Sam Jardine in the box for slashing, Luke Moffatt fired a low shot in the slot to add another power-play tally for the Wolverines.
“We talked about getting a fast start and it was really important especially the way we started Friday night,” Copp said. “It just showed our preparation was where it needed to be today.”
David Gust cut Michigan’s lead in half and put the Buckeyes on the board when he fired a wrist shot past Michigan goalie Steve Racine on a breakaway 3:03 into the second period to make it a 2-1 game.
The Wolverines retaliated when Derek DeBlois sent a one-timer from the slot over Tomkins’ shoulder at 6:12 of the middle stanza to put Michigan up 3-1.
The Buckeyes made it 3-2 as Darik Angeli and Gust crashed the net with 2:15 to play in the second frame. Angeli managed to hang on just long enough to slip the puck past Racine to cut Ohio State’s deficit to one heading into the second intermission.
With Michigan on the power play again, Phil Di Giuseppe re-established a two-goal lead with a rocket from the top of the right circle at 10:30 of the final frame.
Just 1:19 later, Ohio State’s Sam Jardine sent a shot through traffic from the point to net his first career goal and again make it a one-goal game.
In the end, however, Michigan managed to stay one step ahead, never relinquishing its early lead.
“We have a never-say-die attitude and obviously we would have liked to have tied it up later and believe we could have and if you put us in that situation again, we still will believe that we can,” Jardine said. “We just keep learning and keep progressing.”
Though the Buckeyes’ rally effort fell short, they had chances to tie.
“I think that has been our team all year,” Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. “We talked about it tonight, down one or down two, we were going to keep playing the same and these guys never give up. That is our attitude in the locker room. Right to the bell, and we did that tonight.
“But against good hockey teams, you can’t continue to get behind by two goals because that is a deep hole to dig out of, and tonight was a little too deep for us. But I love our guys’ attitude and we have lots of energy and we work hard and never quit.”