In the first men’s hockey Big Ten conference game held at the Schottenstein Center, the Ohio State Buckeyes fell to the Michigan Wolverines, 5-4, to complete a two-game series.
Despite the Monday loss, coach Steve Rohlik said he was proud of his team’s effort against the No. 3-ranked Wolverines (10-2-1, 2-0-0), and said they “emptied the tank” by the end of the game, closing a three-goal gap to tie the game in the third period.
“At the end of the day, (Michigan) had more (goals) than we did, so they obviously did a few things better, as the score would say,” Rohlik said. “I told the guys in the locker room I’m proud of our effort, and I thought we played a pretty good hockey. We battled back and gave ourselves a chance.”
Although the Buckeyes (8-6-0, 0-2-0) outshot the Wolverines, 12-4, in the first period, the lone goal came off the stick of junior forward Zach Hyman with 5:56 left to give Michigan a 1-0 edge.
Less than four minutes into the second stanza, junior forward Ryan Dzingel netted the equalizer to tie the game, 1-1, extending his streak to seven games with a goal.
However, Michigan responded with two goals — both from freshman forward JT Compher — to extend the lead to 3-1 heading into the third period.
Michigan freshman defenseman Michael Downing opened up the scoring early in the third with a goal, giving the Wolverines a three-score advantage. OSU junior forward Max McCormick tallied a goal in the power play at 10:37, which started a scoring frenzy by the Buckeyes.
Buckeye freshman forward David Gust scored with 6:47 left, and junior forward Tanner Fritz came through just more than a minute later to tie the game.
With just 1:35 remaining, senior defenseman Mac Bennett gave the Wolverines the lead for good, hitting the back of the net off a backdoor pass.
Dzingel said the team’s mindset during its three-goal deficit was that it had to bounce back, and he said he believes the Buckeyes did just that.
“Obviously, we had our backs against the wall being down, 4-1. Coach came in and challenged us, and it shows a lot of heart and a lot of character in the locker room to come out in the third and score three quick (goals),” Dzingel said. “We did some things wrong, but we did a lot of things right.”
Rohlik said his first experience at the helm of the team during a series against rival Michigan was a positive one, even if the scoreboard said otherwise.
“Win or lose this weekend, I wanted these guys to enjoy the moment,” Rohlik said. “Unfortunately, we lost both games, but I think our guys can feel good that we got better. That’s the key.”
Although the Wolverines managed to complete the sweep, Bennett said Michigan’s play — especially giving up three goals in the third period — wasn’t where he believes it needs to be.
“We need to get better,” he said. “(Giving up a three-goal lead) is embarrassing.”
OSU capitalized on the power play twice out of seven attempts, compared to Michigan’s 0-for-5.
The Buckeyes are slated to return to action Dec. 28, when they open a two-game series against Mercyhurst. Both games are set to be played at the Schottenstein Center, and are be the Buckeyes’ last nonconference matchup of the season.