By Erin Lennon , Daily Sports Writer
Published November 29, 2013
A packed Yost Ice Arena erupted approvingly into its “beat Ohio” chant when freshman forward JT Compher wrestled with Ohio State’s Alex Szczechura in the net midway through second period and jumped to its feet with “Hail to the Victors” when Compher scored minutes later.
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It was the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry as it has always been, this time on ice.
And so it was fitting that in the first meeting of the inaugural Big Ten hockey season came down to the final minute of overtime, as the No. 3 Michigan hockey team ousted the Buckeyes 4-3 at home.
To the tune of “let’s go blue” in overtime, the Wolverines managed a handful of near scores to no avail. Then, with 1:22 remaining, sophomore forward Andrew Copp found a hole, firing a shot past Ohio State goaltender Logan Davis. It was Copp’s second-straight overtime goal.
“I think any time you’re playing Ohio State on a weekend like this when Big Ten hockey starts up, that’s pretty high up there,” Copp said.
Added junior forward Alex Guptill. “I think that’s the first time since I’ve been here as a freshman that I haven’t seen an empty seat in the entire place. It’s definitely nice, and good to see the fans on our side.”
The Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 9-2-1 overall) had spent most of the third period playing keep-away to protect a one-goal lead that had been given to them with 16.2 seconds remaining in the second period by Guptill. Guptill and Copp managed breakaways without finding the back of the net, but, even on power plays the object was to keep the puck out of the defensive zone.
Instead, with under four minutes remaining in regulation, Michigan allowed its first even-strength goal of the game, tying the game at three.
After Compher secured a one-goal lead in the second period, with 11:05 remaining in the, freshman forward Evan Allen drew his first career penalty shot — the Wolverines’ second chance this season — but was blocked by Davis to hold the score at 2-1.
Then, on its second penalty-kill situation, Michigan allowed its second-straight power-play goal, this time to Ohio State forward Max McCormick. Freshman forward Michael Downing left his stick off the ice, allowing the shot to take freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort off guard and tying the game at two.
“Our penalty kill couldn’t seem to kill a full two-minute penalty, so we were on our heals,” Berenson said. “We gave up too many goals, so I thought we were lucky to win.”
Through 11 nonconference matchups, the Wolverines outscored opponents 11-2 in the first frame. Following suit, it took Michigan just 2:51 to score in the first frame when junior forward Travis Lynch poked in an even-strength, backhanded shot from freshman Alex Kile — Lynch’s first points of the season.
The Wolverines were plagued by their defense all night. Michigan was noticeably outhustled early in the first period. On defense, the Wolverines allowed far too many “grade-A opportunity shots,” as Berenson likes to say and were chased down several times behind their own net. With five minutes remaining in the frame, that speed and Ohio State’s man-up advantage led to a tie score with when Michigan’s penalty kill allowed its 45th goal of the season.
With a defense that allows an average of more than 31 shots per game, tonight’s 35-shot defensive performance was nothing out of the ordinary. Lucky for Michigan, Nagelvoort boasts the nation’s best goals-against average.
“It’s a good feeling in that locker room,” Berenson said. “It was a big game for our team, even though its a familiar opponent. I thought a lot of our players might have gotten caught up in all the hoopla of the expectations rather than just playing the game, but it feels good to win that one.”
So, as it has always been, the second game of the series between two bitter rivals on Monday will be anyone’s to win.