Junior forward Tanner Fritz (16) outskates an opponent during a game against Michigan March 2 at Nationwide Arena. OSU lost, 4-3. Credit: Ben Jackson / For The Lantern

Junior forward Tanner Fritz (16) outskates an opponent during a game against Michigan March 2 at Nationwide Arena. OSU lost, 4-3.
Credit: Ben Jackson / For The Lantern

A new venue, a similar result.

An early two-goal deficit was too much to overcome for the OSU men’s hockey team as it lost 4-3 to Michigan at Nationwide Arena, the third time in four tries that the Buckeyes have lost to the Wolverines.

The two teams played to a 2-2 tie Friday night, with the Buckeyes (15-11-4, 5-7-4) earning the extra point in the shootout. But any momentum gained from that impressive performance seemed to disappear Sunday as the Wolverines (16-10-4, 8-6-2) made the better start.

OSU junior forward Max McCormick was called for interference just 2:08 into Sunday’s game and on the ensuing power play, Michigan freshman forward Alex Kile tipped in a long shot to give his team the lead.

After OSU failed to capitalize on its own power play less than five minutes later, the hosts had another man in the penalty box, and the visitors had another puck in the net. Michigan senior forward Luke Moffat collected the puck in front before firing it past freshman goalie Matt Tomkins and into the OSU net.

On Friday night, the Michigan power play unit didn’t register a goal in six attempts. Michigan coach Red Berenson said the team’s improved play with the man advantage was the big difference in the two games.

“I thought we moved the puck a little quicker and we moved around a little more,” Berenson said after the win Sunday. “We weren’t as stationary as we were the other night. We made good plays rather than just (taking) shots into bodies.”

After the two power play goals by the Wolverines Sunday, the Buckeyes chased the game, not getting on the board until 3:03 into the second period. An outlet pass from freshman defenseman Josh Healey found junior forward Chad Niddery behind the Michigan blue line, and he moved the puck on to freshman forward David Gust, who slid it past sophomore goalie Steven Racine to make the score 2-1.

But any positive energy Gust’s goal produced was erased a few minutes later when Michigan senior forward Derek DeBlois took his time in front and fired the puck past Tomkins.

Trailing once again by two goals, the Buckeyes turned up the intensity and were rewarded with a power play goal late in the period. Junior forward Darik Angeli drove to the net and forced a deflected shot to sail past Racine.

Then in the third, just when it seemed like OSU was coming close to a game-tying goal, the Wolverines struck again to make it 4-2. Even with a late goal from OSU sophomore defenseman Sam Jardine, the Buckeyes couldn’t manage to completely overturn the deficit.

Despite being happy with his team’s resiliency, OSU coach Steve Rohlik said the team couldn’t afford to play from behind for such a large portion of the contest.

“Against good hockey teams, you can’t continue to get behind two goals because that’s a big hole to dig out of,” Rohlik said Saturday. “Tonight was just a little too deep for us.”

Frustrating loss aside, Jardine said the experience of playing in an NHL arena was still special.

“I thought the fans were great,” Jardine said. “It’s a thrill to be living in Columbus and to be able to have the resource of coming to (Columbus) Blue Jackets games. So that was special for a lot of us to be able to play here, and especially to have our home crowd cheering for us.”

The loss means OSU is now five points behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings with four games left to play. The Buckeyes are set to play their final home series next weekend against No. 2 Minnesota (23-4-5, 12-2-2), with the puck set to drop Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.