Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
“That one stings,” said Ohio State senior defenseman Brandon Martell after rival Michigan completed a weekend sweep of his team.
Michigan defeated OSU, 6-3, Saturday night, following a 5-3 victory the night before. Leaving the series empty-handed, OSU remains in a tie for fourth with Ferris State in the 11-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
But even with two losses, the Buckeyes earned a first-round bye in the CCHA Tournament.
OSU coach Mark Osiecki said his staff came into the weekend primarily focused on securing that objective.
“Our first step was trying to earn a bye. That’s a big step for us,” Osiecki said.
The Buckeyes started Saturday’s Senior Night with four of their five seniors on the ice. The spotlight soon moved to OSU sophomore forward Tanner Fritz. The Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, native scored two goals in the opening period, sandwiched around a pair of tallies from the Wolverines.
Fritz was not finished yet. After Michigan took a 3-2 lead early in the second on a goal by sophomore forward Phil Di Giuseppe, Fritz assisted sophomore forward Max McCormick’s equalizer at the 5:16 mark of the period.
“(Fritz) is on a whole different level,” Osiecki said of his forward’s recent play.
Neither Fritz nor his teammates, though, could muster any offense in the final period against the Wolverines.
Michigan scored the final three goals of the contest. Osiecki pulled senior goalie Brady Hjelle after he let in his fifth goal of the game.
“He’s been solid for us … he didn’t have his A-game tonight by any means. I don’t want to leave him out there just dangling in the wind,” Osiecki said of the call to pull Hjelle on Senior Night.
The Buckeyes came out of the gate slowly Friday night and were unable to find the net until the beginning of the third period. McCormick’s 10th goal of the season made it 2-1 with 19 minutes to play.
The remainder of the period brought a bevy of goals, but OSU never pulled even. The final Michigan goal came on an empty net with 50 seconds left.
The sweep of the Buckeyes (13-14-7, 12-9-5-1 CCHA) leaves the Wolverines (12-18-2, 9-15-2-2 CCHA) with 31 points in conference play. Although it sits in ninth place, coach Red Berenson’s squad has won four of its last six.
“That’s probably the best weekend of hockey Michigan has played all year. The penalty killing was good and the power play was good,” Berenson said.
OSU will shift focus to the final series of the regular season, a date with league-leading Miami (Ohio). Osiecki said a positive response to being swept at home will be key to preparing for the Red Hawks.
“You’ve got to turn the page as quick as possible, but they also have to let it sting,” Osiecki said. “That has to drive you for Monday, has to drive you for Friday.”
Game one of the two-game series will be played Friday at 7:35 p.m. in Oxford, Ohio.