Friday night against Michigan, it didn't matter.
Ohio State raced to a 2-0 lead after one period, sleepwalked through the next 30 minutes and then put in three goals during the final 7:19 to earn a 5-3 win against flagging Michigan in front of a season-high crowd of 5,182 in Value City Arena.
The win bumps OSU (7-9-1, 5-5-1-1) to sixth place in the CCHA, only two points behind third-place Ferris State and Alaska.
"We persevered through it," head coach John Markell said. "It wasn't pretty at points, but we got the win."
Michigan fell to 7-8-0 and only 3-6-0-0 in the CCHA, and the loss dropped the Wolverines to a last-place tie with Western Michigan, though U-M has two games in hand on the Broncos.
"I thought the game had its ebbs and flows," Wolverines head coach Red Berenson said. "I thought we had the momentum in the game. You have to capitalize on your chances, and I don't think we did that tonight."
The last ebb and flow put the Buckeyes ahead. Michigan controlled the game starting from the drop of the puck in the second period through the next 30 minutes – outshooting OSU 25-7 in that span – before Ohio State went ahead for good at 12:41 of the third when Alex Carlson won a faceoff back to defenseman Devon Krogh.
The freshman quickly unleashed a shot through traffic that beat U-M goaltender Bryan Hogan to the short side for his first career goal, giving OSU a 3-2 lead and highlighting a night for Krogh in which the freshman finished plus-5.
"We were actually talking about this last weekend," said OSU goaltender Cal Heeter. "He said he's on a big drought, that he needs to break it with a goal. It's great to see him score tonight, and plus-5, good for him. That doesn't happen too often so I hope he's happy."
C.J. Severyn doubled the Buckeyes' lead with 5:01 left, beating Hogan from right in front of the goal after good work down low by linemates Hunter Bishop and Mathieu Picard.
Michigan drew one back on a 5-on-3 when – amid a chorus of "We Don't Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan" from the suddenly lively crowd – Carl Hagelin scored at 16:56. Moments later, Heeter stoned A.J. Treais from low on the left, and Bishop added an empty-net goal with 34.7 seconds left to set the final score.
Heeter's save of Treais was the last in a number of robberies made by the sophomore on a night in which he made a career-high 42 saves, a number not at all inflated given Michigan's dominance over the final two frames. Earlier in the third, Heeter denied NHL draft picks David Wohlberg coming in on the left and Louie Caporusso right in front on a quick feed, among the best of his stops during his standout night. Treais and Kevin Lynch also hit posts for U-M.
The start on the opening game of a series for Heeter was his first. He had been OSU's Saturday goaltender for the initial eight weekends, compiling a 5-2-1 record as Dustin Carlson slogged to a 1-7 mark in series openers with little help from his offense.
"It's great to see our team come together and play well on Friday night," Heeter said. "We've had trouble winning games on Fridays. It was nice to see."
Markell didn't say for sure if Heeter or Carlson would start Saturday's 8 p.m. rematch.
"I just thought it was time to make the change," Markell said. "When a guy plays a game like that, you're hoping he's a competitor, too – that he'll be able to back it up."
Heeter was bested only in the second, a period in which Michigan outshot OSU 17-4. OSU led 2-0 going into the frame, but Luke Glendening tallied during an odd-man rush at 11:32 and Chris Brown tied it during a 4-on-4 with 4:48 left in the period to conclude a prolonged scrum in front of the net.
Ohio State's first-period goals were courtesy of the hot line of center Zac Dalpe and wingers Sergio Somma and Peter Boyd. Boyd opened the scoring 5:52 into the game when he converted Somma's pass from behind the net at the left doorstep, and Somma doubled the advantage when Dalpe created an odd-man rush then fed him at the right post for an awkward finish.
Members of the line have 15 goals in the last eight games since the grouping was established.
"We've been keeping it simple," Somma said. "It's fun. Those are two really talented guys and guys that want to win and want to play the right way."
Notes: Hogan finished with only 15 saves. … Michigan was 1 for 6 on the power play, while OSU was 0 for 3. … Ohio State will try to complete its first two-game sweep of Michigan since November 1989 when it won both games of a home-and-home series with an off day in between. … Dalpe and Boyd were both plus-3. … Ohio State blocked 16 shots to Michigan's 1. … Rust had two first assists for Michigan.