ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan center John Shouneyia sat and shook his head incredulously. “He’s a good goalie, but he’s not God.”
Shouneyia referred to Michigan State’s Ryan Miller and his 42 saves, in the moments following the teams’ 1-1 tie at Yost Saturday night.
Shouneyia’s remark gave away two of Michigan’s lingering emotions after its most recent battle against Miller and Michigan State: a frustration at having a dominant performance on the shot chart neutralized by the Hobey Baker winner, and a resolve to try and erase that frustration when the two teams meet again on Feb. 16 at Joe Louis Arena.
The significance of the shot total, 43-21 Michigan, was not lost on Michigan State coach Ron Mason.
“It was another Michigan versus Ryan Miller game tonight,” Mason said.
For No. 8 Michigan (13-7-5, 10-4-4 CCHA), the challenge was a formidable one. The Wolverines entered the game with hearts heavy after learning last week that junior forward Mike Cammalleri — the team’s leading goal-scorer with 15 — will miss possibly all of the regular season with mononucleosis.
The question haunting Michigan in the week preceding the game was whether someone would pick up the scoring slack against the rest of its CCHA schedule. The team’s nine freshman, viewed as part of the reason for the Wolverines’ slow start this season, were the key intangibles.
In the case of No. 6 Michigan State, the task revolved around overcoming Yost’s raucous crowd and the momentum they generate for the Wolverines.
“They had a territorial advantage and I knew they would play with unbelievable tenacity and create turnovers,” Mason said.
The two teams exchanged scoring opportunities and elbows in the game’s first twenty minutes, but the game remained scoreless going into the second period.
Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn, long the second-fiddle in his matchups against Miller made what was, at the time, the game-saving stop against Brian Maloney just one minute into the second period.
Maloney charged in on Blackburn and went to the backhand, but the senior goalie stuck up his glove and knocked the puck away to keep the game scoreless.
Miller responded in like manner on two quality chances near the second period’s halfway point. At the 6:48 mark of the second, Michigan’s Eric Werner streaked in on a 3-on-2 and directed a pass towards Miller’s five-hole; Miller closed the pads and made the save.
Nearly three minutes later, Michigan’s Jason Ryznar scooped up a loose puck in the high slot and fired a shot at Miller, but again the junior made the save.
Michigan State broke through the scoreless barrier at the 12:59 mark of the second period when Mike Lalonde took a feed from Ash Goldie in front of the crease and lifted the puck over Blackburn’s stick side for his sixth goal of the season and the 1-0 lead.
Michigan dominated the offensive play in the third period, outshooting the Spartans, 15-3. The Wolverines held the puck in the Michigan State zone power play-style, but the Spartans responded by clogging up the shot lanes. When a shot managed to get through, Miller held his position and made the save.
Finally, when it looked as though Michigan would succumb by the same score, 1-0, as it did to the Spartans at Yost last season, two freshmen stepped up.
Werner fed a hard-charging Dwight Helminen, who then wristed a shot over the top of Miller’s glove for the game-tying score with 6:37 left in regulation.
“They turned into a defensive team in the third,” Werner said. “We knew we all needed to step up and respond.”
Neither team managed a golden scoring opportunity in the overtime period and the game ended in a tie, just as their first matchup of the season in the Cold War, at 3-3.