ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Coming into tonight’s game, the Buckeyes already knew that they could score against the Wolverines in Yost Ice Arena.
After all, Ohio State had scored six against Michigan in an 8-6 loss Jan. 17.
Friday night, the Buckeyes scored seven – six unanswered between the first and second periods – and outlasted the Wolverines 7-4.
“It’s like a football game out there scoring goals,” said Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik. “Not that we want to play that way, but against Michigan, you’re going to have to score to win. They’re gonna score goals. We just knew in the locker room we had to go out there and compete, and if they’re going to get five, we have to get six.”
It’s not unusual for the Wolverines to be on the other end of a game like this. Michigan has netted seven or more goals in a game five times this season, and coming into the weekend, the Wolverines were averaging 4.73 goals per game, first in the nation.
And it’s the first time this season that Michigan has scored at least four goals and lost the game.
“What went wrong [was] a little bit on the PK, a little bit on the defensive zone,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We gave up a couple of breakaways and near-breakaways that they didn’t score on. We just were out of sync and I can’t tell you what it was. Maybe our team thought we had the week off because we weren’t in school, but we definitely did not play like a Michigan team has to play this time of year.”
The Wolverines led 2-1 by 8:21 in the first on goals by J.T. Compher and Alex Kile, but the Buckeyes pulled to within one when Dakota Joshua squibbed one past UM goaltender Steve Racine at 9:43.
Then Josh Healey evened up the game at 14:01 with his shot from the top of the slot that went through everything – including Racine’s legs – and John Wiitala netted his 10th of the season on the power play with 17 seconds left in the first to give the Buckeyes a 3-2 lead after one.
Midway through the second, the Buckeyes scored two goals 22 seconds apart to take a 5-2 lead. At 8:35, Kevin Miller skated into the bottom of the left circle and beat Racine on the short side. At 8:57, Brendon Kearney picked up the loose puck in a scramble in front of the net and poked it home.
That was the end of the night for Racine, but not for Ohio State’s offense.
The Buckeyes finished the second period with a five-minute power play when Nikolas Boka received a major penalty for interference, and Drew Brevig’s goal made it 6-2 with 51 seconds left in the second.
The Wolverines tried to rebound in the third, with Tony Calderone scoring twice – including on Michigan’s own five-minute advantage with Ohio State’s Sasha Larocque in the box for interference – but OSU’s Freddy Gerard banked a shot off the boards from his own end of the rink and hit the empty net at 18:48 in the third to cap the game.
“You can’t put yourself in a hole like that and expect to climb out,” said Berenson. “The last time we played this team here, we scored five goals in the third period to win the game 8-6. We were down by two going into the third and here we were again down by four. You don’t design these things. You don’t plan them. They just happen.”
Since a 6-1 loss to Penn State Feb. 19, the Buckeyes have scored 24 goals in four games, going 3-0-1 in that span.
“It feels good, but we have to keep limiting their chances,” said OSU co-captain Nick Schilkey. “We might not score this many every game, but they are going in, so it feels good. We have to make sure we’re doing our job on the other end, too.”
With the loss, Michigan remains in second place in the Big Ten, but is now four points behind league-leading Minnesota and just three points ahead of third-place Penn State. With 22 points, Ohio State is in fourth place.
Michigan (20-6-5, 10-4-3-2 B1G) travels to Columbus for the rematch with Ohio State (11-17-3, 6-8-3-1 B1G) Sunday at 3 p.m.