EAST LANSING, Mich. — The script was just about the same as last night’s game in Ann Arbor. The defending national champions were leading the No. 1 team in the country by a goal late in the third period.
Fortunately for the Michigan Wolverines, the script from last night was changed late in production. This time, they were able to get the tying goal and claim a tie against their in-state rivals, the defending NCAA champion Michigan State Spartans.
With the 2-2 tie, Michigan moves to 22-3-1 overall on the season, with a 15-2-1 record in CCHA play. Michigan State is now 17-5-5, including a 13-2-3 mark in conference action.
“It was a hard-fought game; both teams were playing well,” said Michigan senior Kevin Porter. “We both had our chances, both goalies played great, and we luckily got one there at the end. Maybe that goal was lucky, but to come out with a tie, I don’t feel lucky at all. It’s nice to get the tie tonight, but overall, it was a bad weekend for us.”
With 1:37 left, Michigan scored the tying goal on a scramble in front of the net. Freshman Matt Rust was credited with the goal as Michigan State defenseman Matt Schepke knocked the puck into his own net.
The Spartans argued a cross-checking violation had occurred right before the goal, but CCHA referee Matt Shegos awarded the tying goal, much to the displeasure of the Michigan State crowd and to the relief of the Wolverines.
“I am happy with the effort,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I thought our team rebounded. I thought we played well pretty much the whole game.”
In the overtime period, the Spartans had a power play opportunity, but they were unable to convert it as Michigan junior goaltender Billy Sauer came up huge repeatedly. Michigan State dominated the overtime period, out-shooting the Wolverines, 4-0, but they had to settle for a tie in a game they felt they should have won.
“There should have been a penalty, but they didn’t see it,” Michigan State coach Rick Comley said. “Obviously proof that the 2-2 is better than the 1-2, but it was a clear cross-check. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I thought it was a hard-fought game. They’re the No. 1 team in the country coming in. They were fortunate to leave with a point.”
Michigan got on the board first, breaking an 86-minute scoreless streak in this series against Michigan State when freshman wing Max Pacioretty netted a slick power-play goal in the second period. Senior wing Chad Kolarik put the puck right on his stick in front of the net, and Pacioretty buried it deep in the goal for the 1-0 lead.
“You look at their team,” Berenson said. “They’ve only given up three goals in the last five games, and four games on the road. Goals are tough to come by. Our power play wasn’t exactly sharp this weekend, but you have to give them some credit and give [Michigan State goalie Jeff] Lerg some credit.”
The Wolverines’ first lead of the weekend didn’t last very long, as the Spartans earned themselves a five-on-three with eight minutes left in the period. Right after Rust picked up a slashing penalty with the Wolverines already a man down, Michigan State senior defenseman Daniel Vukovic got the equalizer on an assist from senior center Bryan Lerg.
Within a minute, Michigan State made the Wolverines pay again when junior wing Tim Crowder beat Sauer on the ensuing five-on-four, assisted by junior wing Nick Sucharski.
Just like that, Michigan’s hard-earned lead was gone.
“We got a five-on-three power play, and that gets us back in the game,” Comley said. “Two good teams go at each other, and things happen.”
The first period was a scoreless scrum, with Michigan State out-hustling the Wolverines for the most part. The Spartans out-shot Michigan, 10-3 in the first period, and the Wolverines didn’t register a single shot on goal on special teams, despite having two power plays. Overall, the first period was a relatively dry affair, even with the nine penalties, as the teams felt each other out and found their legs.
It was the second period that set the tone for the game.
“There’s a 46-second time when we gave up the two goals, and that was the difference in the game,” Berenson said. “We had to battle back from that. I thought we played hard, our young kids got a great experience playing in here and what it takes. They could have won the game. I’m not thinking about the tie as much as I am the effort.”
Next up for No. 1 Michigan is a home series with CCHA foe Northern Michigan, while Michigan State hosts Nebraska-Omaha next week for two CCHA games in East Lansing. With the league title still up for grabs, both teams will look to get four points at home.