The Ohio State men's hockey team bettered its position on the NCAA tournament bubble and kept a run…
OSU gave up two early power-play goals and never recovered even though they battled to the final whistle before an announced crowd of 5,748 that braved the snow to attend the Big Ten game in Nationwide Arena.
"This time of the year usually the team that wins the special teams is going to win the game," OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. "That was the case tonight. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot and gave them a running start. We couldn't catch up."
The home of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets was the site of the game because the ice was taken out of Value City Arena for the weekend's state high school wrestling tournament.
Alex Kile, Luke Moffat, Derek DeBlois and Phil Di Giuseppe scored for the Wolverines (16-10-4, 8-6-2-1 Big Ten). Steve Racine stopped 34 OSU shots, including 14 of 15 in the third.
Freshman David Gust brought the Buckeyes (15-11-4, 5-7-4-3) back from a 2-1 deficit, junior Darik Angeli pulled OSU to within 3-2 in the second period and sophomore defenseman Sam Jardine made it 4-3 in the third but that was it as freshman goalie Matt Tomkins made 34 saves as well.
"We ran out of time at the end," Rohlik said. "It was probably an entertaining game for most people to watch."
Ohio State had a chance to move into third place a point ahead of Michigan with a regulation or overtime win, but instead the Wolverines took four of six points in the weekend series and are five points up with four games to play.
The Buckeyes tied the Wolverines, 2-2, Friday in Ann Arbor and won the shootout but could not carry the momentum into the matinee Sunday. "Every weekend can be a big swing in points," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "We're all trying to do the same thing – finish as high as we can.
"I can't say we're happy getting four out of six points. Both coaches were hoping to get six out of six but that's the way it is this time of the year."
The rematch was typical of the games this season between the heated rivals. Michigan won three of the four by one goal each.
"If you follow this series or this rivalry between these two programs the past five years you'll see just about every game is decided by one goal and there's not much to choose between the teams," Berenson said. "You saw it earlier in the year when we played Ohio home and home and again this weekend."
It was a cat and mouse game as the Buckeyes would get close then fall back.
With the Buckeyes threatening to finally pull even after chasing the Wolverines since the third minute, Di Giuseppe provided Michigan with temporary breathing space just past the midpoint of the final period.
Once again, it was the power play that did the trick as his heavy slap shot from the right dot overpowered freshman goalie Tomkins to make it 4-2 at 10:30.
The safety net didn't last long, though, as Jardine scored his first career goal in his 57th game to draw OSU closer. He was able to sneak a drive past Racine as teammate Ryan Dzingel set a screen at the 11:49 mark.
"Chad (Niddery) did a really good job sucking my guy down to him and then giving me the pass so I didn't have to worry about getting it through the first lane," Jardine said. "After that anything can happen."
Ohio State rebounded from a lethargic start, not to mention a 2-0 deficit after the first period, to cut the Wolverines' advantage to 3-2 heading into the third.
Angeli gave the Buckeyes renewed life at 17:45 of the second with his ninth of the season in good old fashioned style – by crashing the net.
He drove in from the left side and pushed the puck on Racine before crashing into him after being checked by Mike Chiasson. Meanwhile, on the other side of the crease Gust was sliding into the right post following a shove by Michigan's Moffat. The play underwent a lengthy review before being ruled in favor of the Buckeyes.
Gust was integral in getting the Buckeyes going at the start of the middle stanza. OSU's first goal developed in its own end with freshman defenseman Josh Healey sending a long outlet that Niddery managed to gather while staying onside. Niddery caught Gust cutting between the circles and Gust did the rest with a nice move for his sixth goal at 3:03.
But the Wolverines returned to their favorite area - the slot - and DeBlois one-timed a pass from right corner at 6:12 to regain the two-goal edge it earned in the first period.
Just 32 seconds on a pair of power plays was all the Wolverines needed to score twice for a commanding lead after the first period.
"That was frustrating because I thought we had a good start," Jardine said. "Their power-play goals happened very early in the power plays. They were bang-bang. It's not like they were working us around on long shifts and we got tired."
There wasn't a whole lot of life in the building to begin and all the energy was sucked after seven minutes when Kile and Moffat converted well executed plays to put the Buckeyes on their heels. Michigan opened the scoring when Kile was stationed in front of the goal to redirect a shot from the left by Andrew Copp at 2:26.
The Buckeyes had a chance to tie the score with its own power play but failed to finish and the Wolverines showed them how to do it 14 seconds after Jardine was sent off for boarding. Michigan found open space in the slot and Moffat wheeled and fired after a centering pass by Copp again.
OSU suffered a loss when senior forward Alex Szczechura, the star of Friday's game with a goal and the shootout winner, appeared to hurt his left knee or ankle when it buckled as he skated backward in the second period. He did not return.
It was similar to what happened in the first period to referee Barry Pochmara. He also missed the remainder of the game.