Despite outshooting the homestanding Wolverines by a 29-17 margin and receiving two goals from sophomore Todd Rudasill, Ohio State went into the second intermission tied 3-3 instead of ahead because of a series of crucial mistakes. And when Michigan's Tim Miller scored the lone goal of the third to take home a 4-3 win in CCHA play, the Buckeyes were left to wonder what could have been.
"I thought the effort was there," head coach John Markell said. "We executed well. We made a couple of mistakes. They're a good team and they put them in the net."
Chief among those mistakes was a five-minute major and game disqualification from sophomore captain Peter Boyd that led to a U-M goal and a ghastly giveaway behind his own net by goaltender Dustin Carlson that led directly to another Wolverine tally.
Those miscues let the Wolverines (5-2-0, 2-1-0-0) go into the break tied, and even Michigan head coach Red Berenson seemed to think his team was undeservedly even on the scoreboard.
"Ohio State outplayed us for two periods, and we were fortunate tonight," Berenson said. "(Goaltender) Billy Sauer was the difference at that point. Shots were 29-17, and I'd say the chances were definitely proportionately like that. We just felt we played too much in our zone, turned the puck over – and they played well. They attacked us and were the better team."
Boyd's penalty at 7:36 of the first period was the first momentum-shifter during what was a back-and-forth barnburner from the opening faceoff. OSU kept the Wolverines at bay to start but finally the high-flying Maize and Blue got on the board 3:28 into the power play with Louie Caporusso on the tally, putting his sixth of the year behind Carlson from the doorstep on the right moments after Miller had fanned on a chance from the slot.
OSU (2-4-1, 1-3-1-1 CCHA) nearly equalized twice in a 30-second span sandwiched around the 13-minute mark with Sauer denying Matt Bartkowski on a breakaway and then not only having the presence of mind to stop Mathieu Picard's shot but to pounce on the loose rebound behind him in the crease.
Ohio State, which stays with four points in five league games, was the better team during a listless start to the second before Michigan senior Brandon Naurato took a pass from Caporusso after an OSU turnover and beat Carlson far side from the right circle.
The goals came fast and furious from there, alternately thrilling the 6,328 in attendance in Yost Ice Arena – many of whom came decked out in Halloween costumes – and silencing it.
Rudasill got his first 1:06 after Naurato's goal, taking John Albert's pass and beating Sauer on the power play for his first of the year. Michigan got it back 40 seconds later at 10:34 when Aaron Palushaj took advantage of a miscommunication behind the OSU net, stealing the puck and wrapping it around and into the net before Carlson could get back.
But Ohio State wouldn't go away, scoring four seconds after a power play at 12:48 thanks to a fantastic move by Rudasill. The sophomore from Columbus took a pass from Ian Boots in the right circle, deked into the slot to draw Sauer down and then completed the play with a splendid top-shelf finish.
"He had the angle cut off so I didn't really have a good shot," Rudasill said of the play. "I was just trying to think on my feet and that's what I came up with. It was just spur-of-the-moment, and it worked out perfectly for me."
The Buckeyes earned the much deserved equalizer with 2:08 left in the period when Picard got his first of the year by putting in the rebound of a shot by Chris Reed from the right point.
The period's end didn't help Ohio State, which by that point had the momentum after outshooting Michigan 16-9 in the frame. Michigan was better in the third – it was outshot only 8-7 to finish the game down 37-24 in that stat – and after a number of good scoring chances cashed in with 6:22 left when Miller tipped Pulashaj's diagonal centering pass through the legs of Carlson for the second goal of his senior campaign.
"In the third period, I thought we played better," Berenson said. "We were lucky to score, but I thought we had a better period."
Caporusso had the second assist on the goal to give him a three-point night, and every member of Michigan's top line of Caporusso, Miller and Palushaj got on the board.
Both teams finished 1 for 5 on the power play, while Sauer – who in addition to his huge first-period saves had a great stop on Kyle Reed during a third-period 2-on-1 – earned his keep with 34 saves against Carlson's 20.
The Buckeyes' carrying of play through 40 minutes and their ability to come back from a pair of two-goal deficit were positives to Markell.
"I thought we fought back," Markell said. "I thought we played a fairly good game. A team like this, if you make a few mistakes, they're going to put them in. That's the game of hockey. They made mistakes, we just couldn't put our opportunities in. We're not here to reinvent the wheel. We just have to come back with the same effort tomorrow night."
That game will be staged at 7:30 p.m. in Yost and showed on the NHL Network. Ohio State will need to a win to split its third straight series in the venerable barn.