Michigan hockey team snaps 3-game skid by holding off Ohio State in 3-2 win
All week, Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson had asked his team for more urgency.
For four frantic minutes of the third period Friday night, the Wolverines had no other choice. Clinging to a one-goal lead, Michigan first fought through a critical penalty kill and then survived the final two minutes when Ohio State pulled its goalie to gain an extra attacker.
By the time the final horn sounded, the No. 13-ranked Wolverines had emerged unscathed, preserving a 3-2 victory over the the Buckeyes at Yost Ice Arena, snapping a 3-game losing streak and moving into a second-place tie in the CCHA standings with Miami.
"We knew the game would come down to the third period," Berenson said. "I think our team was ready for it.
"But I thought our team was sluggish in the first period and then late in the game. Ohio State put too much pressure on us."
The final 20 minutes proved to be extremely critical. Michigan (18-9-4, 15-7-1 CCHA) used a Chris Brown goal just 1:21 into the final period to snap a 1-1 tie. Six minutes later, Louie Caporusso padded the lead, scoring what proved to be the game-winner by firing a shot past Ohio State goalie Cal Heeter on a perfect crossing pass from linemate Carl Hagelin.
But just as Michigan seemed comfortable with playing with the two-goal lead, Ohio State (14-14-2, 9-12-2 CCHA) made things interesting. With a delayed penalty coming, Peter Boyd slipped a shot past Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick with 6:35 remaining, again trimming the lead to one goal.
The Wolverines were forced to serve the penalty, providing Ohio State with a sudden opportunity to erase the deficit. When Michigan was able to kill off the chance, the Buckeyes chose to pull their goalie with two minutes left, giving them an extra skater the rest of the way.
The Buckeyes had used a similar script earlier this season against Michigan. Trailing the Wolverines by a goal late in the third period on Friday night in early December in Columbus, Ohio State scored in the waning seconds, forcing overtime. Less than two minutes in, the Buckeyes scored to post the come-from-behind win.
Michigan was determined not to allow it to happen at home, where they have now won eight straight games - the most dating back to 2004-05.
"It was pretty frantic," sophomore Chris Brown said. "But (Hunwick) stood on his head for us and made some key saves. The guys who were out there did a great job and did exactly what we do in practice and executed perfectly."
Hunwick again played a major role for the Wolverines, finishing with 33 saves.
Michigan's victory came on a night when first-place Miami fell out of the CCHA lead after allowing a 2-goal, third-period lead to slip away against Western Michigan before losing in a shootout.
Notre Dame's 2-1 victory over Bowling Green allowed the Irish to move into first place, one point ahead of the Wolverines and RedHawks.
But more importantly, the three goals were a welcome sight for a team that had managed only three goals in its last three games. Berenson shifted all four of his lines and got two goals from a line that included Caporusso, Brown and Hagelin, who had assists on both goals.
Scooter Vaughan's first-period goal snapped a 109-minute scoreless drought, igniting a Michigan offense that had been stagnant during the Wolverines' 3-game losing streak.
The two rivals will finish their series Saturday night (7:35 p.m., Big Ten Network) with Michigan looking to build on Friday night's success.
"Three goals isn't big for Michigan - I mean, we're used to scoring a lot of goals," said Caporusso, who registered his first game-winner of the season. "But at the end of the day, we had three goals as opposed to the last three games so it was good."