The Buckeyes slumbered through the opening 35 minutes against No. 13 Michigan, saved only by magnificent play by junior goaltender Cal Heeter. However, it wasn't enough as the Wolverines held on for a 2-1 win in front of an electric crowd of 6,900 in Yost Ice Arena.
"Not very well," Osiecki said when asked how his team played. "I think in the second and third period we played better, but the hard thing, it's very disappointing how (there are) 11 upperclassmen in the lineup and you come out with a start like that.
"I don't think that our guys prepared themselves the right way. Michigan is a good hockey club, so it's a combination of both."
Ohio State (14-15-2, 9-13-2-2) lost its sixth of seven and stayed in ninth place, four points behind the seventh-place tie of Alaska and Lake Superior State. Eighth place is the last that has home-ice advantage in the opening round of the CCHA playoffs.
The Wolverines – as they so often do in their rowdy old barn – put the pedal to the medal in the opening going, outshooting the Buckeyes 17-7 in the first period and controlling play in an even more dominating fashion. If it weren't for some wasteful finishing and Heeter's brilliance, the 1-0 lead the Maize and Blue (19-9-4, 16-7-1-0) took out of the first period would have been so much more.
"We had a much better start," U-M head coach Red Berenson said. "It's important to get the first goal. I didn't think we were capitalizing on our best chances. I thought Heeter gave them a great game in goal."
That goal was put in by freshman Luke Moffatt, as Michigan yet again beat the Buckeyes in transition. A.J. Treais raced the length of the ice along the right-wing boards, drawing in the OSU defense before flipping a pass to Moffatt in front to backhand over Heeter's glove into the top corner.
The Wolverines made it 2-0 only 1:20 into the second on another beauty, as Chris Brown chipped Carl Hagelin's feed over Heeter in front.
That served as the winner, but it could have been so much more if not for 30 saves from Heeter. Ohio State gave up far too many odd-man rushes and open shots – including a breakaway to Brandon Burlon that Heeter stopped, stick side, and another open shot in transition by Luke Glendening that hit the post and sat behind Heeter before OSU cleared – in the first period.
Things were much the same in the second until Ohio State slowly tilted the ice the other way, with Cory Schneider leading the way. The junior earned a breakaway right off a draw to start a Michigan power play and finished over goaltender Shawn Hunwick with a backhander to make it 2-1 at 15:21 of the second.
"It got a little momentum going our way," Schneider said of his fourth goal. "It was good for us to finally get on the board. It was unfortunate we couldn't' get another bounce and get one in the net."
The scoring was done but not the drama. Ohio State nearly tied the game after Schneider's goal but Peter Boyd's breakaway chance stuck between Hunwick's legs before the goaltender was bowled over, starting a scrum that sent two Michigan players and OSU's Danny Dries to the penalty box.
Schneider also deflected a power-play shot by Chad Langlais over an open net late in the second to keep it 2-1.
Brown – who was shaken up on a hit behind the play in the first period with no penalty called – was shown the gate at 2:10 of the third and given a five-minute major for checking from behind when he laid out Chris Reed behind the play, giving OSU a prime chance to get back in the game.
Hunwick denied Ohio State a minute into the man advantage, making a stunning toe save when a loose puck found Chris Crane in the low slot, and the Buckeyes couldn't put a shot on goal from there. Meanwhile, Heeter turned aside Ben Winnett's shorthanded breakaway chance on the other side.
"When you're killing a penalty and the other team keeps it in, your penalty killer are totally fatigued and they can't move, compete or win any battles, and the power play takes over," Berenson said. "That all just never happened. We cleared the puck really well. Even Hunwick cleared it once or twice. We got the puck out and we were able to change and be fresh."
Ohio State also was without Dries on the power play, as he was still in the box serving his penalty from the second period and was unable to get out because there were no whistles.
"Certainly it wasn't a group of five going out and working hard," Osiecki said. "They outworked us. It's disappointing. Serve, Johnny and Boyder have been tremendously good for us most of the year, but in a situation like that, they have to work as a group together. We couldn't get Danny Dries out of the penalty box. That was the difference. We don't have a true quarterback back there with Danny Dries in the box."
Heeter was pulled for the final 1:58, but OSU's best chance – a backhander in the slot by Somma – was gloved down by Hunwick at the 1:00 mark.
The Buckeyes finish with four home games to end the regular season. They will hope to make up ground on Lake Superior State on Friday and Saturday in Value City Arena.