EAST LANSING, Mich. — It was a wild and crazy game between Michigan State and Michigan Friday night. Wolverine junior forward Jason Ryznar scored with 1:18 left in the third period to send the game into overtime, forcing a 4-4 tie.
Down 3-1 at one point, and 3-2 entering the third, the Spartans scored three consecutive goals to take the lead. The period began intensely, with both teams exchanging scoring chances, but the score remained the same — at first.
It was the calm before a storm.
Just over nine minutes in, MSU sophomore Colton Fretter skated up the left side of the ice with the puck on his stick and took a shot that Wolverine goaltender Al Montoya saved, but Spartan A.J. Thelan skated up the slot and shot the puck past Montoya to bring the Spartans even once again.
Two minutes later, the Spartans took their first lead of the game when a centering pass by freshman forward Tommy Goebel was deflected in front by junior forward Mike Lalonde.
But the Wolverines weren’t done yet. With Mike Brown in the penalty box, the Wolverines went on the attack, and Ryznar pulled his team even with just over a minute left.
In overtime, it looked as if the Spartans would take the win when junior forward Lee Falardeau directed the puck into the net — but referee Matt Shegos ruled that the puck was batted in with a high stick.
After the near-miss, there were opportunities for both sides, but the game ended as the overtime had begun: a tie.
“It was a typical Michigan-Michigan State game,” Wolverine coach Red Berenson said. “Anything can happen — we thought we were in somewhat of a good position with a two-goal lead, and we had that for less than a minute. They took the lead and then we came back with a big shorthanded goal.
The Wolverines had good chances during the first with a few mad scrambles in front of the net to put the puck behind Spartan goaltender Dominic Vicari, but failed to finish their chances.
Vicari’s counterpart, sophomore Alvaro Montoya, also had a few chances to showcase his skills in the period. He stopped a puck the Spartans threw into the zone to clear, and attempted to pass to a teammate in the left corner, but forward Brock Radunske intercepted the pass, and the only players in front of the net were Spartans Adam Nightingale and Ash Goldie.
On the next shift, MSU captain Jim Slater broke into the Wolverine zone and found no Wolverine defenders between him and Montoya, and tried a drop-pass to linemate freshman forward Tommy Goebel coming up the middle, but couldn’t get the pass through the Wolverine traffic.
In the second period, Michigan’s Jeff Tambellini dumped a Spartan defenseman behind the net, then shot the puck over Vicari’s left shoulder to give the Wolverines the 1-0 lead.
After that goal, it seemed for a while that the Wolverines were finally in control.
That all changed when David Booth got the puck on his stick and an open lane. The Spartan sophomore charged up the right side and shot over Montoya’s left shoulder to bring the game even at one.
And then, with under two minutes left in the period, the floodgates opened with three goals in 27 seconds.
First, Wolverine junior forward Dwight Helminen fought his way between three Spartans and fired between Vicari’s right side and goalpost. Fourteen seconds later, junior defenseman Eric Werner’s shot from the point made it through traffic and past a sprawled Vicari to give the Wolverines a two-goal advantage.
Another 13 seconds after that, Spartan junior Brock Radunske brought the Spartans back within one as he grabbed a rebound and shot it at Montoya, sprawled across the crease. The puck hit the goaltender’s arm, and Radunske grabbed his own rebound and lifted it high into the net.
“We’re not happy with our overall game, defensively, and I’m sure they’re not happy with theirs,” said Berenson.
“It was a hard-fought game. We’re not any better than anyone, but I don’t know that anyone is a lot better than us, and that’s what you’re going to get. Their team played hard, our team played hard. We had a lot of guys that made mistakes that cost us, but we escaped.”
“It must have been a great game to watch,” Spartan coach Rick Comley said. “It was fast, hard-fought, intense. I thought our kids showed an awful lot of courage, fought back a couple of times, especially when they got that run on us there [in the second period]. Their kid takes a stupid penalty and doesn’t get punished for it — just bad luck.
“I think in retrospect, when you let it set a little bit, two good teams went toe-to-toe and the kids gave everything they had. It was a big, big game — the biggest game we’ve had this year. It is a tough game to lose — the game is there to be won, you think you have it, but you don’t.
“It’s college hockey the way you want it.”
With the tie, the Spartans are guaranteed third place in the CCHA. If Miami defeats Ohio State Saturday and the Wolverines lose, the RedHawks would take first place in the CCHA, else the Wolverines will win the first seed in the playoffs by the tiebreaker.
The two teams meet again Saturday at Joe Louis Arena at 7:35 p.m. to close out the regular season.