The Buckeyes played well – again – and lost – again – Friday night in front of 6,859 rowdy fans in Yost Ice Arena and a national television audience, dropping a 3-2 decision to No. 13 Michigan.
The loss was OSU's fifth in six games as playoff time nears, but the three have been by one goal. Tonight was no different as the Buckeyes fell to ninth place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
"Obviously it's tough," said Sergio Somma, who had his team-leading 16th goal and an assist. "You don't want to lose. You want to win the game, but Michigan is a great team and it was a good game tonight. We played well and we had our chances. It could have went either way."
The Buckeyes outshot Michigan – which was coming off of a sweep suffered at the hands of league leader Miami the weekend prior – 11-5 in the first period, 15-8 in the third and 35-26 for the game, but U-M goaltender Shawn Hunwick deservedly won first star honors.
"We battled but their goaltender played well, he really did," Osiecki said. "We just have to find a way. We talk about it. We'll go through the stats of the game. We'll show them that and bottom line, you have to dig a little bit deeper."
Scooter Vaughan, Chris Brown and Louie Caporusso scored for Michigan (18-9-4, 15-7-1-0), all beating Ohio State goaltender Cal Heeter cleanly with wrist shots.
"It was a little bit of our defensemen not having great gaps, not having a good stick, not blocking a shot," Osiecki said. "It's tough to take when you play that well."
After a scoreless first period – kept that way only when Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Matt Rust hit the crossbar over the glove of Heeter – Vaughan needed only 40 ticks of the second period to make it 1-0.
He took a pass from Luke Glendening in the slot and, using the OSU defenseman as a screen, fired over Heeter's glove to finally give the Wolverines' crowd something to cheer about.
The Maize and Blue then buzzed for more – and nearly got it when Shane Sims blocked Brown's shot from entering an open net – before OSU slowly tilted the ice back toward Hunwick's goal.
The Buckeyes drew even at 14:08 of the second when the top line of Somma and classmates Peter Boyd and John Albert scored. Albert came in along the right-wing boards and fed Somma in the slot, and his bleeder of a shot snuck through the legs of Hunwick.
Ohio State (14-14-2, 9-12-2-2) pressured for another late in the second, and it would have behooved the Buckeyes to get one the way the third period started.
Albert had his stick lifted by defenseman Chad Langlais only 20 seconds into the period when he had an open net on a 2-on-1, and from there the next few minutes were all Michigan. The Wolverines made it 2-1 at the 1:21 mark as Brown trailed a rush, took a pass in the right circle and scored five-hole on Heeter.
Michigan doubled the advantage at 7:26, as Caporusso found a bouncing puck and quickly roofed it high over Heeter.
Hunwick quickly took over, denying Boyd in the slot and Somma in the right circle moments apart after Caporusso's goal.
"Their goaltender played really well," Osiecki said. "I really thought that was probably the difference in the game."
Truth be told, there was little the diminutive senior could do on Ohio State's final tally with 6:35 to play, again put in by the top line. Somma gloved down a puck at the offensive blue line and, in a mess of bodies, played a perfect diagonal pass forward to Boyd that sprung him in on a breakaway.
With defenseman Greg Pateryn hauling him down from behind, Boyd still was able to fake to the forehand, switch to the backhand and round Hunwick to the right post for a magnificent tally.
"It was a great play," Somma said. "Luckily it got through there to Boyder, and he made a nice move to his backhand."
Pateryn went to the box on his trip, and though OSU buzzed on the ensuing power play, there were no golden chances to be had as the Buckeyes fell to 2-10-1 when blanked on the man advantage.
The Buckeyes played the last 2:12 with Heeter pulled, but the time largely passed without incident.
"It's tough to swallow, that's for sure," Boyd said. "You want to win games when you're playing well, but the key ingredient is to keep playing well and the win column will come."
Both teams were 0 for 2 on the power play. … Somma's goal was the 50th of his career and allowed him to set a career season high. … OSU senior defenseman Chris Reed returned to action after missing six straight games because of injury. … OSU freshman D Curtis Gedig did not play for the first time since Oct. 15. … Michigan improved to 11-2-1 in Yost. … The teams rematch Saturday night at 7:35 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.