With second place on the line and serious postseason implications, Michigan and Ohio State delivered an emotionally charged, end-to-end 4-4 tie in front of nearly 13,000 fans at Value City Arena.
Eric Nystrom scored twice for the Wolverines, as did Rod Pelley for the Buckeyes, but the real hero — from Michigan’s perspective — was Andrew Ebbett, who tied the game for the Wolverines with one second remaining in regulation.
“It does feel like a win, particularly when you’re down two goals in the third period, on the road, against a good team in a meaningful game,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “Both teams had their chances to win, but we put ourselves in a position where we were lucky to tie.”
The first period ended with a 2-1 Michigan, with the Wolverines striking twice early. Nystrom capitalized on a Michigan power play at 5:35, picking up his own rebound, and Jason Ryznar backhanded one past OSU netminder Mike Betz after stealing the puck following a faceoff in the Buckeye zone at 8:28.
Pelley answered for Ohio State at 16:04, one second after the Buckeyes’ first power play of the game expired. When the Wolverines tried to clear, Lee Spector plucked the puck from midair in front of Michigan goalie Al Montoya and shot; Pelley got the rebound to draw OSU within one.
The second period was all OSU, with Pelley scoring his second and Spector registering one of his own, but it was the play of Betz, whose kick save on John Shouneyia with five minutes left in the period preserved the OSU lead and lifted the Buckeyes through the end of the stanza, that energized the home crowd.
OSU led 3-2 going into the third, and Ryan Kesler gave the Buckeyes a two-goal lead — OSU’s fourth consecutive goal — at 7:43, but the Wolverines redoubled their effort and threw everything they had at Betz. Nystrom’s second goal of the game at 9:30 in the third brought Michigan to within one and rejuvenated the Wolverine squad, which outshot Ohio State 15-5 in the third.
And, of course, Ebbett’s goal with one second left — a goal he scored while going down to one knee in front of the OSU crease, with the Wolverines buzzing and Montoya out of the net — sent the game to overtime.
“One second left,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “I thought our team played pretty well. Obviously, we got some good goaltending, but we just can’t catch a break here in the last 20 seconds of a game.”
The point locked Michigan into second place in the final CCHA standings, and Berenson was relieved it came in the first game of the weekend. “It was important, obviously, because if you don’t [tie] it means you lose the game and you’re going into even more pressure tomorrow night. There’s still going to be pressure tomorrow night, but a different kind of pressure.”
For the Buckeyes, the tie brings third place one point closer, but there’s more at stake for OSU than just league standings.
Said Markell, “Obviously we were trying to get second place, but you have to look at the big picture, too. The power rankings, you have to watch them too. It’s a difficult situation.” The Buckeyes are on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid in the PairWise Rankings.
For the Buckeyes, Betz made 33 saves; Montoya stopped 27 for the Wolverines. OSU was 1-for-4 on the power play; Michigan converted once for five power-play chances.
Michigan (24-9-2, 18-7-2 CCHA) and Ohio State (22-10-4, 16-8-3 CCHA) meet Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. at Value City Arena, in the final regular-season game for each team.