Matt Rudin chose to be different.
After watching two teammates before him score blocker-side, Rudin slid in his game winner the other way in No. 2 Ohio’s 3-2 shootout win over No. 11 University of Michigan-Dearborn on Friday night at Bird Arena.
Ohio coach Sean Hogan noticed the UM-Dearborn goalie looked shaky using his blocker during the game. And though both of OU’s regulation goals had come on the glove side, he saw something new to exploit.
But Hogan didn’t select the players for the shootout. He told assistant coach and former Ohio player Nathan De La Torre to do it.
Hogan joked that his “record of picking the shootout guys wasn’t good this year” in reference to Ohio’s 5-4 shootout loss to Robert Morris (IL) earlier this season. All three Bobcat skaters failed to score that night.
The opposite happened this time and it started with Gianni Evangelisti, the Bobcats’ scoring leader with 18 points in 13 games. He skated in slightly to the right and put a low shot past the goalie’s blocker.
Next came Joey Breslin, who skated in from the left side and popped his wrist shot over the blocker. The Wolverines scored on two of their three chances, which forced Rudin to take his turn.
Rudin, the only right-handed shot of the three Ohio shooters, came down the middle and pulled the puck to his backhand at about the same distance from the net where his teammates had shot and scored.
The goalie thought he was going to shoot and reacted accordingly. When he lunged with his blocker, the game was over. Rudin tucked the puck in glove-side and sent the Dad’s Weekend crowd into a boisterous frenzy.
“They figured out a way to win a hockey game,” Hogan said.
For the first 50 minutes, however, Ohio had been the weaker team.
UM-Dearborn forward Kevin Bechard beat Ohio’s defense to a dumped-in puck and ripped it short side to open the scoring 38 seconds in.
The Bobcats had their share of chances to answer, especially on the powerplay. Ohio had scored on 28 percent of its chances entering the game, a solid rate, but let six chances go by without a goal.
Down 2-0 with about half of the third period left, two of Ohio’s best offensive players turned the game inside out.
First it was Rudin, who scored his team-best ninth goal on a weak wrister he said he didn’t expect to go in. Just 44 seconds later, Evangelisti streaked across the high slot and fired the tying goal.
The flurry jolted the crowd out of its disinterested murmur and into a brief state of craziness. Suddenly, after two and a half fruitless periods, it seemed like every Ohio shot had a chance to go in.
In the shootout, that’s exactly what happened.
The Wolverines were stronger and more energized right up until Ohio’s pair of goals. It was their first game since the death of defenseman Ben McPartlin on Saturday night.
McPartlin, 23, was a freshman who’d played four games this season. The cause of death had not been determined as of Tuesday morning, according to a report from Fox 2 Detroit.
Everyone in Bird Arena held a 10-second moment of silence to honor McPartlin before the game. The Wolverines hung his yellow No. 4 jersey behind their bench.
“That was the best team we played this year, I think,” Hogan said. “They played with a lot of emotion. They played hard.”