Yes, the hockey Buckeyes left with more points than their rivals, and moved to within two points of the No. 13 Wolverines for third place in the Big Ten with five games to play. On the other hand, OSU didn't play its best game of the year – the Buckeyes were outshot 37-26 – and couldn't hold a third-period lead.
In the end, the former view seemed to win out, as the Buckeyes not only stayed in the race for improved standing in the Big Ten but gained ground in the PairWise rankings that determine the NCAA tournament field.
"We talked about it right away in the locker room, it certainly wasn't our best game, but good teams find a way to get points," Rohlik said after OSU moved to 15-10-4. "We've been talking about just getting points. We're on the road, in this building, in this atmosphere – it was fun. For us to come away with two points, that's big for us."
It wasn't a thing of beauty in front of the usual 5,800 angry partisans in the venerable Yost Ice Arena – not to mention the Big Ten Network audience at home – but the Buckeyes left with the points thanks to goals from Nick Schilkey and Alex Szczechura, who also tallied the lone shootout marker to make for one group of happy Buckeyes.
"In one of the best rinks in college hockey, to come out with two points, two out of three, it's definitely huge for our team," said Szczechura, a senior who was scratched in the team's last game two weeks ago vs. Wisconsin. "This is playoffs. Every game matters from here on out. Every game is going to be a battle. Tonight was a big battle for us. It was good for us to come out on top tonight."
Michigan got two goals from Alex Guptill, another big point producer who was coming off a recent healthy scratch, while also moving to 15-10-4. But the Wolverines still have a two-point edge on the Buckeyes for third in the Big Ten with 24 points thanks to a 7-6-2-1 record, while OSU sits at 5-6-4-3.
Ohio State never trailed in the game and held a 2-1 lead as time ticked down and Michigan pushed for an equalizer. It came with 5:16 on the clock when Guptill got loose in front of the net mere seconds after OSU captain Curtis Gedig flattered a Wolverine with one of the hardest hits you'll see in college hockey.
Evan Allen found the puck in the corner for U-M and sent it to Guptill in front, and the Michigan junior first hit the post behind OSU goaltender Matt Tomkins before burying the rebound past the down-and-out goalie.
That set off a frantic finish, including a turnover by Ohio State with mere second left that forced Tomkins into a huge shoulder save on Michigan senior Derek DeBlois.
Ohio State also couldn't score on a late power play in regulation and had some chances in overtime before a true gut check, as Michigan defenseman Michael Downing hit the post as the clock ticked under 10 seconds to go in the extra frame.
"We looked like we were 13 days off," Rohlik said. "I thought we'd be sharper, and we actually had a really good week of practice. Give credit to Michigan, but I thought both sides, the first period, it was like a ping pong match. It really looked that way. They got their legs under them and they obviously had some chances, and we could never get over the hump.
"But you know what, to have the lead with five minutes to go, you have to find a way to win. We held on with the tie and got it done in the shootout."
Ohio State struck first in the game just 4:26 in, and it was a beauty. The Buckeyes forced a turnover and Chad Niddery threw a backhanded pass through the slot to Schilkey along the low left side, and the only Michigander on the team deposited a sharp-angle backhander past Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort to make it 1-0.
"We got a good bounce at the blue line and Niddery made a great play passing it over to me," said Schilkey, a freshman from Marysville, Mich., who made it eight points in nine games. "I just tried to tuck it in there and luckily it went on. I had some family in the stands and stuff, and it's always nice at any game to get a goal like that. Obviously here in the home state, it's fun."
It looked like the Buckeyes would take the one-goal lead into the locker room after one, but a seemingly innocent play led to a goal with 28.2 seconds left in the period as captain Curtis Gedig couldn't find the puck in his skates, leading to Guptill unleashing a quick wrister by Tomkins from the left circle.
But the Buckeyes weren't set back by the goal and in fact kept Michigan without a shot in the first half of the second period. Ohio State also took the lead on the power play when Sam Jardine's shot from the center point on the power play deflected right to Szczechura, who tucked it by Nagelvoort from close range at 10:00 to make it 2-1.
Ohio State got 35 saves out of Tomkins, who made his first start in place of fellow freshman Christian Frey since a Jan. 24 loss at Wisconsin.
"Matty was just waiting in the wings," Rohlik said. "He deserved an opportunity. I'm really happy for him. You give all the credit for him stepping in after the long stretch between games for him and to come back and show what he's all about."
The teams finish the season series Sunday at 1 p.m. at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.
Notes: Ohio State has now played three consecutive 2-2 ties followed by shootout wins in the state of Michigan. The Buckeyes played two games with the same score Jan. 10-11 vs. Michigan State. … Szczechura's goal snapped a streak of three games without a power-play goal for OSU. … The Buckeyes are 9-2-2 this season when scoring first. … Jardine's assist gave him 10 on the season and made him the 12th Buckeye on the season with double-digit points. ... Ohio State now has earned 18 of 24 points in its last eight Big Ten games.