Just as in football in 2015, Ohio State went into Michigan coming off some lackluster play and stomped the No. 6 Wolverines. And it was pretty much just as much of a surprise here as it was in that 2015 football game at Michigan, as the Ohio State mens hockey team came in off a disappointing split with the Big Ten's last place Wisconsin Badgers.
Lackluster goaltending was the main culprit of OSU's split with Wisconsin and it came up once again on Friday night versus Michigan. Thankfully for the Bucks, the offense put together one of its increasingly normal offensive fireworks displays to not only overcome the goaltending, but win by three goals doing it.
It sure looked like that goaltending was going to do Ohio State in once again in the first period, as Christian Frey let in two Michigan goals within the first 8:21 of regulation, letting the Wolverines jump out to a two goal lead. J.T. Compher scored the first one at 3:41 on the powerplay while Alex Kile's goal at 8:21 made it 2-0. Frey has been mediocre at best lately, and it sure seemed like he was going to kill any chance of the Bucks winning this one within the first ten minutes of the game.
Except the Buckeyes weren't going out like that. OSU got one back quickly at 9:43 as freshman Dakota Joshua scored his fourth of the year from Tommy Parran and Brendon Kearney. Josh Healey would tie the game at 14:01 with his fifth of the year from Parran and Tyler Lundey. John Wiitala would give Ohio State its first lead of the game at 19:43 of the first on his tenth of the year, from Mason Jobst and Matt Weis.
The Bucks somehow came out of the first period with a 3-2 lead after the first eight minutes looked like it spelled disaster. Turns out that when you can score like the young guns of Ohio State can, mediocre goaltending isn't the end all.
OSU's offense kept the train rolling in the second, except this time Frey didn't allow any goals on the five second period shots he saw. Kevin Miller scored his third of the year at 8:35 with Sasha Larocque scoring the only assist on the tally. Just 22 seconds later, at 8:57, Kearney scored his second of the year with Miller registering the lone assist. The two apparently work well together.
Drew Brevig would add a powerplay goal at 19:09 of the second to put OSU up 6-2 heading into the second intermission. It was his third of the year, from Weis and Nick Schilkey. When Schilkey doesn't get on the board until OSU's sixth goal, and David Gust and Anthony Greco are held completely scoreless, it's nothing if not a sterling team offensive effort.
Michigan would get two back in the third to make it look interesting. Tony Calderone scored twice, once at 1:40 and again at 14:05 with the second on the powerplay, to narrow the score to 6-4, but Michigan would get no closer than that. Freddy Gerard put home an empty netter at 18:48 for his fourth of the year and OSU took the game 7-4.
Ohio State improved to 11-17-3 overall and 6-8-3-1 in conference after the win while Michigan fell to 10-4-3-2 in conference and 20-6-5 overall. This is the kind of win that shows you that Ohio State, if they catch fire at the right time, can put on Cinderella's glass slipper and find a way to win the Big Ten tournament. It's not likely and Christian Frey needs to play like the Christian Frey we're used to and not the one whose save percentage has dropped to .913 on the year.
But the fact is that, no matter how unlikely, Ohio State can do it and will look to gain a little more confidence on Saturday versus Michigan at 3pm at Nationwide Arena. It's a big one, folks.