DETROIT — After a demoralizing loss at Bowling Green, No. 9 Michigan was somehow able to battle back from a 3-0 deficit to force a 3-3 tie with No. 6 Michigan State before 16,489 fans at Joe Louis Arena.
“We had something to prove against our opponent tonight, and we proved something,” said coach Red Berenson. “We played with more emotion tonight. And when you play with emotion you have a lot more gas than you think you have.”
The unlikely combination of Chris Summers and Andrew Cogliano set up a pair of third period goals to bring the Wolverines all the way back.
Just 1:41 into the final frame, Summers cut the lead to 3-2 by potting a Cogliano rebound after the latter raced through the Spartan defense with a head of steam and fumbled the puck on net.
It was the opposite on the game-tying goal, as Summers collected a loose puck from a face-off behind the MSU net and fed Cogliano out front for a bang-bang chance that he ripped through netminder Jeff Lerg for the 3-3 final.
Even though Michigan erased a three-goal deficit, perhaps it was Michigan State that was lucky to escape with a tie. The Spartans were badly outshot by a 57-22 margin and the Wolverines dictated the style and tempo for the entire third period and overtime.
“Michigan State is a tough team to play when it gets the lead. Our team did a great job in coming back and really keeping them on their heels for the rest of the game,” said Berenson. “We played a lot in their zone and they had to defend. In a way, they have to feel lucky that we didn’t win the game.”
If it wasn’t for sophomore goaltender Jeff Lerg’s career night in net, the Spartans surely would have gone home pointless. The diminutive sophomore made an astounding 54 saves for Michigan State, including 6 stops in an extra frame that was all Blue.
“He was excellent. He’s been so sharp ever since Christmas,” said MSU coach Rick Comley. “He knows when he has to play well and he thrives on the big game. He should come off the ice with a smile on his face tonight because he did everything he could possibly do.”
Cogliano and Summers were the only Wolverines to beat Lerg, as Summers also notched Michigan’s first goal of the night. Just after a power play expired, Steve Kampfer fired a hard low shot from the right point that was kicked out to Summers at the bottom of the left circle for an easy score.
“Summers is a strong competitor. He’s tough, he’s strong, and he can really skate,” said Berenson. “We needed a strong skater to pay with Cogliano. It’s nice to see him get a couple goals tonight and really be a factor in the game.”
Prior to this evening, the freshman had struggled to showcase his offensive flair as a defenseman, so he was placed on Cogliano’s left wing. The move paid immediate dividends on a night when T.J. Hensick and Kevin Porter, the nation’s leading scorers, had trouble finishing chances.
Lerg’s stellar play in night may have had a bit to do with that, but Porter had several chances to tie or win the game in the third period and came up empty handed.
In one of the most striking plays of the evening, Porter was all alone at the right post for a backdoor slam dunk, but the normally sure-handed left wing sprayed the puck up over the top of the net. The rubber did manage to knick the very top of the crossbar, but it
was no consolation for a pure finisher like Porter.
“Porter had a back door empty net and he doesn’t miss that one,” said Berenson.
MSU’s Bryan Lerg is certainly a player who is having no problems finishing lately. The junior assistant captain hit the back of the net again tonight for the Spartans, continuing a six-game goal scoring streak. Lerg’s tally was a team-best 20th of the season.
Justin Abdelakder notched a pair of goals around Lerg’s marker, ballooning MSU’s early lead to 3-0 just 7:57 into the second period.
Abdelkader’s second goal of the night was a thing of beauty. The second round pick of the home Red Wings picked Andrew Cogliano’s pocket clean in the neutral zone and raced in on a shorthanded breakaway. A left-handed shot, Abdelkader swooped in from the right side and snapped a low shot between Sauer’s pad and the near post for his 11th of the season.
Although this game had the feel of a CCHA Championship game, both teams left with only one point for the league standings. Michigan State remains in fourth place, two points behind the Wolverines and three behind a victorious Miami. The Spartans, however, have at least one game in hand against both teams.
Michigan hopes to bring this level of emotion to its next contest on Friday at Lake Superior. MSU will carry a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2) into Big Rapids, Mich. for a Tuesday game at Ferris State. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. in the Ewigleben Ice Arena.