The never-say-die Buckeyes proved once again that no deficit is too great when they put their minds and bodies to the task.
Ohio State electrified a season-high crowd of 5,454 in Value City Arena on Friday by tying the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines on a goal by senior Sergio Somma with 11 seconds left then capping the comeback at 1:43 of overtime on a goal by freshman Alex Szczechura.
“We talked about it last weekend that we played two of our better games back-to-back (against Alaska) and that we felt as a staff we deserved better,” OSU coach Mark Osiecki said of the win and loss to the Nanooks.
“We said going into overtime, ‘You guys deserve this. You deserve to be in overtime.’ We’re trying to get our guys to believe that.”
The Buckeyes are 6-7-1 overall and 3-5-1-1 in CCHA play.
All three conference wins have a similar pattern. OSU trailed 3-1 at Michigan State on Nov. 12 before rallying. Szczechura had the overtime winner in that game as well.
A week ago the Buckeyes were also facing a two-goal deficit vs. Alaska but came back to win in a shootout.
“We bounce back for the most part,” Osiecki said. “We find a way. The best thing we’ve shown throughout the year is we’re a resilient group. Maybe the term is relentless. That’s how we want to play, how we want to be no matter what happens.”
Michigan (8-5-4, 7-3-1) and legendary coach Red Berenson were headed for victory when OSU pulled goalie Cal Heeter for an extra attacker with 1:40 to play.
The Wolverines had one shot at an open net but missed. It was a costly gaffe because David Wohlberg was sent off for crosschecking with 47 seconds led to give the Buckeyes a two-man advantage.
This time the Wolverines twice sent the puck down the ice toward the open goal without facing an icing call but were off target again.
Finally, the Buckeyes were able to get a faceoff in the UM zone with 16 seconds left. Senior Peter Boyd won the draw to freshman Curtis Gedig at the left point.
His shot reached goalie Shawn Hunwick but he left the rebound at the right of the net and Somma quickly deposited his seventh goal.
“We got a good win (on the faceoff) and got the puck to the net,” Somma said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This time it did. We’ve been conditioning a lot so we can turn it on and push ourselves at the end of the games.”
Michigan had a glorious odd man rush in overtime that it blew and the Buckeyes responded moments later with Szczechura taking a pass from Boyd in the high slot. He whipped the shot past the helpless netminder to set off a mob scene on his fifth goal.
“I had seen Boyder going hard down in the corner. I got open in the slot. He found me,” Szczechura said. “I put it on net and it went in. I got it off quick because guys were around me. I wasn’t really aiming too much.”
Many of the Michigan players immediately left the ice instead of sticking around for the standard handshake with the Buckeyes but Berenson ordered the malcontents back.
“I don’t know if they forgot or they were so disappointed,” Berenson said. “It had nothing to do with Ohio State.”
An exchange of fluky goals in the second period set up the meaty third period.
First, John Albert put the Buckeyes on top at 4:34 with an innocent backhander along the ice between the right circle and the goal line that went five-hole on Hunwick.
Alex Lippincott had the lone assist.
The Wolverines got the equalizer with a power-play marker from Jon Merrill at 6:33 after he attempted a shot from the right side. Cory Schneider went down for the block but the puck hit his leg then his skate and deflected past Cal Heeter.
Michigan took the lead at 8:43 of the third on a Louie Caporusso goal but the Buckeyes persevered.
“I thought we played a good game until the last two minutes when we had to play in our own zone and got ourselves short-handed,” Berenson said. “It’s a travesty to even give up the tie let alone the win. It’s just poor accountability on our team… For us to give up the lead late in the game is unacceptable.”
Two things helped the Buckeyes – the crowd and Heeter.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Somma said. “They were really energized. They helped us in overtime.”
Heeter, a junior who has played every minute this season, made 28 saves.
“Cal’s given us an opportunity every game,” Osiecki said. “If you want to say he’s been our best player all year that’s an understatement.”
The teams play again Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in Value City Arena.