As the Ohio State men’s hockey team got set to take on the Michigan Wolverines for the last time in the regular season, the Buckeyes were looking to improve on the ice with improved preparation.
“We practiced a lot better this week then we did last week. Preparation is key,” coach Steve Rohlik said. “You win the game Monday through Thursday, and we didn’t do that last week. If we continue to do well in practice, we have a better chance at success.”
The Buckeyes had a bit of success as they split the home-and-home series with the Wolverines. On Sunday, the Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play in Yost Arena, where they lost to the Wolverines, 5-2.
Sunday was the polar opposite of Friday night as the Buckeyes couldn’t rally against an aggressive Wolverine defense. Sophomore goalie Christian Frey was in the net for OSU both nights and recorded 54 saves total over the weekend.
“(Frey) has literally given us a chance this second half (of the season). He looks comfortable, confident, he’s made some great saves for us,” Rohlik said. “He’s given us a chance every game he’s been in, and if we can go out there, chip away and score some goals, I like our chances.”
The Buckeyes were unable to gain offensive momentum throughout the game and struggled to finish against Michigan junior goaltender Steve Racine. The Buckeyes rallied in the third with goals from senior captain Tanner Fritz and junior forward Tyler Lundey, but it wasn’t enough to make a comeback.
OSU and Michigan were fairly even in shots, but Racine held the advantage with 28 saves.
With freshman Dylan Larkin and senior Zach Hyman taking the lead, the Wolverines were able to break down the Buckeye defense. Going into Sunday’s matchup, Michigan looked to improve its defensive effort, after OSU was able to bury five goals in Friday’s game.
OSU celebrated a 5-3 victory over the No. 15 Wolverines in the series opener at the Schottenstein Center, giving the Buckeyes their first win over Michigan since 2011.
Senior forward Matt Johnson proved be an offensive leader for the Buckeyes, scoring two goals in the first period. Fritz also found the back of the net and recorded his 100th point as a Buckeye.
Senior forward Darik Angeli also tallied one for the Buckeyes, scoring off a one-timed slap shot to give OSU the 4-2 lead. In the third period, Michigan pulled its goalie, and sophomore forward Nick Shilkey scored his seventh goal of the season on the empty net.
“This was the best win for us all year. When you don’t win as many games as you would like to, it could go one of two directions. I think we had some good talks this week as a team and I think we put in the best week of practice,” Rohlik said.
The Buckeyes are looking to gain some momentum as they prepare for a matchup against the second-ranked team in the Big Ten, the Penn State Nittany Lions, on Friday in Columbus.
Johnson said Friday’s game was a step in the right direction, but added OSU needs to continue to play that well every night.
“Once you start playing that way, it’s kind of contagious,” he said.