The third-ranked Wolverines were the better team from the opening faceoff. The 16th-ranked Buckeyes laid an egg in front of 9,267 fans, their largest crowd of the season, giving up a goal to Michigan 1:15 into the game and stumbling to an eventual 4-1 loss to the Maize and Blue.
"Give Michigan credit. They came to play," Ohio State head coach John Markell said. "They outskated us, they outcompeted us, they won the 50-50 battles, they won the goaltending battle, they won the specialty teams and everything that you need to do in a game of this magnitude. They were more physical than we were, they outskated us and they outsmarted us."
Ohio State was outshot 23-16 through the first two periods and spent most of its time through that 40 minutes in its own defensive zone. Highlights were few and far between as Michigan (24-9-0, 18-7-0-0) stifled the Buckeyes' breakout attack, forced the team into numerous defensive-zone turnovers and kept puck possession at will.
"We just got flat out outcompeted in every aspect of the game really," forward Sergio Somma. "There was no urgency, no piss and vinegar. No battle mentality, really. When you don't have that we're not going to beat anybody."
Ohio State fell to 18-11-4 and 11-10-4-3 in the CCHA. The Buckeyes are 2-5-3 in their last 10 games and will stay in fifth place in the league. Their deficit from fourth-place Alaska was one point entering the evening but could be three by the time the Nanooks' 11:05 ET faceoff with Ferris State concludes.
Though the Buckeyes, with three games left, retain two games in hand on UA, Markell gave a stark appraisal of the Buckeyes' hopes to pass the Nanooks to earn the final first-round CCHA playoff bye slot that goes to fourth place.
"If we lose tomorrow, we're out of it," he said. "I don't know what's gone on in the rest of the league but we have to give ourselves an opportunity. We have to get back playing well and playing for 60 minutes."
The Wolverines' top line grinded out a goal 75 seconds into the game that foreshadowed the two hours to come. Miller won the puck in the left corner and fed it to Caporusso on the left post; Ohio State goaltender Dustin Carlson stopped the initial shot but Wohlberg drove home the rebound from in close for his 13th goal.
When asked which goal deflated Ohio State, Langlais said, "I thought the first goal. Obviously it was key to get that and make a good start to the game, especially on the road against Ohio State."
Markell had a different view.
"Maybe the second and third, too, and the fourth," he said dryly.
Truthfully, Michigan got lucky on its second goal but it was certainly with the run of play. Langlais' shot from the left point deflected off Buckeyes Nick Biondo and Corey Elkins before entering the cage behind Carlson.
Langlais made it 3-0 on the power play at 10:59 of the second with his fourth goal of the year when his slap shot hit Carlson's pad but still bounced into the net. Miller made it four at 14:40 when he put a loose puck past Carlson from the slot.
"We deviated from the game plan so quickly," Markell said. "That's what was surprising to me and disappointing."
The Buckeyes showed a little vinegar in the third period. Corey Toy engaged in a moment of fisticuffs with Travis Turnbull that earned both a double-minor for roughing and Toy an extra two minutes for cross checking at 5:29.
Toy earned the only Buckeye goal with 29.7 seconds left when his shorthanded shot from the top of the slot got by Bryan Hogan, who improved to 20-3-0 on the year.
The Buckeyes changed up their lines coming into the game but Markell was forced to juggle even more in the third period in an effort to get some energy, even benching Elkins, a senior, for large portions of the third period. Buckeye forwards have just one goal in three games.
More jump will be required for Saturday night's 8 p.m. faceoff against the Wolverines, who have won 9 of 10.
"It's gut check time, really," Somma said. "We're going to have to challenge some guys in the locker room and see what way they want to go. If they don't then they can go sit in the stands."