Michigan hung on for a much-needed 4-3 victory over Ohio State Sunday in a matinee game played at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Wolverines salvaged a split with the Buckeyes and won the season series 3-0-1.
A power-play unit that went 0 for 6 in a 2-2 tie (shootout loss) Friday night at Yost found its rhythm Sunday afternoon, scoring on 3 of 4 opportunities to prove the biggest difference in the game. Sophomore goalie Steve Racine, who improved to 2-0 against OSU this year, also played a critical role, stopping 34 of 37 shots.
"I feel fortunate that we won the game," coach Red Berenson said. "Our power play was maybe the difference in the game. Our goalie had to play well, and we got a couple of bounces here and there."
Michigan got off to the strong start Berenson was seeking, scoring twice in the first 7:03 to take a 2-0 lead. Rookie forward Alex Kile, now with three goals in his last three games, redirected a point shot for the opening marker at 2:26 followed by a another power-play tally less than five minutes later, this one coming on a slot wrister from senior wing Luke Moffatt.
The Buckeyes scored early in the second but U-M answered quickly, just 3:09 later, when senior forward Derek DeBlois fired a shot from the high slot past Ohio State netminder Matt Tomkins at 6:12 of the period. OSU would not surrender, however, scoring before the second intermission to create a drama-filled third period.
Junior left winger Phil Di Giuseppe, who had twice sent shots wide on a pair of breakaway attempts earlier in the contest, redeemed himself with Michigan's third man-advantage marker, this one coming at 10:30 of the third, but Ohio State drew within a goal at 11:49.
In the final two minutes, with Tomkins pulled for the last 1:30 or so, the Scarlet and Gray mounted one last push, but the Wolverines' much-maligned defense blocked a shot and then was able to clear the puck before playing keep-away in Michigan's own zone to run out the clock.
"It was anyone's game," Berenson said. "I thought there was a point where we had two or three grade-A chances in the second period and we didn't score on them. Then they got the goal they needed to get back into the game. The game could have gone either way right until the end."
"" thought we did a great job," Racine added. "We knew they were going to come hard. They weren't just going to let us win. At the end of the year here every win is important and you could see them pushing back. Unfortunately we kind of left them in the game a bit, but overall we played great. Wins are hard to come by now and every win is hard-earned."
With the victory, U-M jumped all the way up to 12th in the Pairwise Rankings but as Friday's loss proved (when Michigan fell from 14th to 16th in the PWR) every game has volatile consequences, and with series remaining against Michigan State (home and away) and Minnesota (both at home) to close out the regular season, the Maize and Blue cannot afford to lose many more.