ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Perhaps the last three games between rivals Michigan and Michigan State had been fitting: three straight games have gone to overtime, with two ending in ties. Tonight wasn’t any different. The boisterous crowd, big penalty kills and nail-biting action were all there, culminating in a hard-fought 3-3 tie between No. 1 Michigan and No. 10 Michigan State at Yost Ice Arena Saturday night.
The pressure of being named number one this week showed early, as the Wolverines got out to a sluggish start. The Spartans jumped out to the lead off a bad giveaway by Tim Cook deep in the Michigan end. Tim Kennedy stole the puck and snapped a shot over Billy Sauer’s right pad at 4:17.
“It was a hard fought game; we knew it would be,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “From our standpoint, we didn’t get off to a good start. We turned the puck over and it cost us a goal.”
Michigan State continued to hem Michigan in its own end, holding the Wolverines to just two shots midway through the period.
Michigan’s captain, Andrew Ebbett, led by example and turned the game in Michigan’s favor at 13:01. Goalie Dominic Vicari made a horrible clear right up the middle of the zone, which landed right on Ebbett’s stick. Ebbett made no mistake, punishing Vicari with a wicked slapshot to knot the game at 1-1.
“Ebbett’s not the biggest guy on our team, he’s not the fastest guy or have the hardest shot, but he works the hardest,” Berenson said. “He knows the game, he anticipates well, he gives you everything he’s got every night. And that’s why he’s the captain.”
Ebbett credited Michigan’s slow start to the presentation for parents’ night before the game.
“We had the parents on the ice, and it was kind of a distraction, especially for the younger guys,” Ebbett said. “We had a sloppy first 10 minutes, and then we kind of regrouped.”
The Wolverines didn’t repeat their slow start in the second, taking the lead at 1:03. Andrew Cogliano skated over the Spartan blue line, sending a cross-ice feed to Mark Mitera. Mitera found Brandon Kaleniecki, who completed the tic-tac-toe passing play with a one-timer. It was Kaleniecki’s first of the season.
Michigan State countered a little over two minutes later over another miscue by the Wolverine defense. Matt Hunwick misplayed the puck along the left boards, giving Jim McKenzie a chance to free the puck to Tyler Howells in the middle. Howells wristed a shot past Sauer to even the score at 2-2.
The furious pace continued, with both teams scoring another final goal before the period’s end.
Midway through the second, Mitera fed Cogliano at the right point on the power play. Cogliano sent a wrister that found its way through traffic into the top right corner of the net.
The all-freshmen line of Tim Crowder, Tim Kennedy and Justin Abdelkader connected for Michigan State’s final tally of the night with just 43.7 seconds remaining in the second. Kennedy worked the puck from behind the net, circling out front before shoveling a shot toward Sauer. Crowder tipped the slow shot just enough to direct it between the Sauer’s five hole.
“We’re three freshmen, so we’re always together; we always hang out in each other’s rooms, so I think that kind of chemistry really helps out on the ice,” Kennedy said.
The Spartans had a scare late in the third when Cook hit Drew Miller from behind into the boards. Miller was down on the ice for over a minute, but returned before the period’s end. Jack Johnson was already whistled off for a penalty and Cook was called for a major, giving Michigan State 1:38 of a five-on-three power play. Michigan came up with a strong penalty kill, and even kept Michigan State penned in its own end for almost a minute.
“We’ve really struggled on the power play,” Michigan State coach Rick Comley said. “We’ve been working on it; we’ve tried to get better at it, but it’ll take time. We struggled at the blue line on the power play and we have for three straight games now.”
Sauer stopped 35 of 38 shots for Michigan, including a big save with the game tied and five minutes to go in the third. The puck took a weird bounce of Sauer’s shoulder, leaving him looking the other way as Miller picked up the puck. But Sauer shifted toe-to-toe and threw his stock across the goal line to negate Miller’s shot at a game-winner.
“It was great,” Sauer said. “I had my first little taste last weekend against Boston College, so I knew what to expect. It was still a little nerve-wracking when you get out there. I thought I was going to be sick the first few minutes of the period. You just look up there and see 6,900 people screaming. But it was a good experience.”
Vicari stopped 20 of 23 shots, improving to 2-0-1 on the season.
Michigan pressured early in the overtime, but neither team had many good opportunities.