Hockey - Clean Sweep!

The Michigan hockey team made their final appearance of the year Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Wolverines faced off against the No. 10-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Milan Gajic scored twice for the Wolverines as they completed a regular season and tournament sweep of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association with a 4-2 win. <br>

Saturday's CCHA tournament championship game had been in the making for a long time. Since early December, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes seemed to be the only teams with a realistic possibility to walk away with the CCHA championship. They met in January at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, with each team skating away with one victory in the weekend series. Saturday's championship game would be the rubber match for the 2004-2005 season.

Michigan jumped to a 1-0 lead by quickly capitalizing on their first power play less than three minutes into the game. With the extra skater, the Wolverines dictated the pace offensively as the puck moved around the top of the Buckeye zone. At 2:54 the puck found its way to the stick of Milan Gajic, who sent a rocket past Ohio State goalie Dave Caruso from the right circle.

At that point, however, the defenses would take over for the rest of the period. The teams exchanged power play opportunities, but neither team was able to tally another goal in the period, thanks to spectacular play from both goaltenders. Michigan took their one-goal advantage into the first intermission despite being out shot 12-11.

Ohio State tied the game 5:32 into the second period on a backhand goal from All-Tournament selection Tom Fritsche. The Buckeyes broke into the Wolverine zone, sending a shot from the blue line at Michigan goalie Al Montoya. Montoya made the initial save. However, the rebound popped out in front of the net. Ohio State sent a second shot at the Wolverine net and were rejected again, but this time the puck came to the stick of Fritsche who sent it into the Michigan net to tie the game at one.

1:14 later, Gajic would add his second power-play goal of the night to put the Wolverines back on top 2-1. After a Brandon Rogers shot from the point deflected off Wolverine Brandon Kaleniecki in front of the Buckeye net, Gajic blasted a shot past Caruso.

The lead was short lived, however. 11 seconds later Ohio State knotted the score at two. After winning the face-off, the Buckeyes dumped the puck behind the Wolverine net where Ohio State forward J.B. Bittner took control in the corner to Montoya's left. Bittner snapped a centering pass into the crease. The puck deflected off the skate of Michigan defensemen Eric Werner and into the Wolverine net.

Each team would have one more power play advantage in the second period, but neither team was able to do anything with their opportunity and the score was 2-2 after the second period. The Buckeyes outshot the Wolverines 24-21 after two periods.

At 5:27 into the final period Jeff Tambellini put Michigan back on top 3-2 by bouncing the puck off an OSU defender and past Caruso.

The Wolverines continued to pepper Caruso with shots for the remainder of the period, but the OSU goalie kept the Buckeyes alive by making save after save. Michigan would tally 17 shots in the final period while only allowing five from the Buckeyes.

Senior Jason Ryznar added the Wolverines final goal of the contest with an empty net goal with 0.5 seconds remaining.

With the CCHA regular season and tournament championships now locked up, the Wolverines turn their focus to the NCAA tournament which will begin next weekend. The men's hockey bracket will be released Sunday at 11:00 a.m. EST, and will be televised on ESPN2.

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