ANN ARBOR, Mich. — n their fifth meeting of the season, Michigan and Michigan State split nearly evenly the first two periods of play. The No. 8 Wolverines managed just enough third period firepower to hold onto a hard-fought 5-3 win Saturday night at Yost Arena.
Michigan parlayed an offensive burst by the line of Matt Rust, Carl Hagelin and Aaron Palushaj into their fifth win of the season over the Spartans.
“Even though we might have carried the play, Michigan State was always in the game,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Tonight’s game was a harder game to win by the end than it was at the end of the first period, but, the third period had to be a good period, and it was.”
The win for the Wolverines boosts them to 24 points in the CCHA standings as they chase down Alaska, Ohio State and Nebraska-Omaha for fourth position and a first-round playoff series bye.
Said Berenson of the two-game weekend sweep, “It was important. We are looking at the standings and five teams are ahead of us. So, we have to win these games. It doesn’t matter if it is Michigan State or Miami, they are all good teams. You have to win these games to make up ground in the standings.”
Hagelin and Rust both scored goals and Palushaj’s three-assist performance was the fifth time this season he’s had a hat trick of helpers.
Drew Palmisano spelled the Spartan’s usual goaltender Jeff Lerg in net for the game and posted a 46-save performance, singlehandedly holding off the Wolverines once the Spartans had turned a 3-0 deficit into a game on goals by Matt Schepke and Andrew Rowe early in the second period.
Michigan dominated play in the opening period, popping three goals by Palmisano and outshooting the Spartans 21-6.
Rust opened the scoring less than a minute after the opening faceoff. Rust took a feed from Palushaj, cut in on the left wing, shifted the puck to his backhand and slipped it by Palmisano at :36.
Picking the top right corner of the net from the right circle, Travis Turnbull widened the Michigan lead to 2-0 at 8:20.
Brandon Burlon found the net through a maze of players with a shot from the blue line with only 32 seconds left in first period to further lengthen the Wolverines’ bulge to 3-0.
Michigan State took little time to show they intended to fight back in the second period. Schepke and Rowe scored their goals only 25 seconds apart early in the period to serve notice the Spartans weren’t giving in just yet.
Palmisano took the cue from his teammates and played solidly, stopping 16 shots to keep the Wolverines in close range on the scoreboard.
“It’s maybe the most resilient we’ve been all year,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “We fought hard and got back in it.”
Michigan State just couldn’t hold on long enough in the third period as the Wolverines notched goals by Hagelin and Chris Summers, sandwiched around a Spartans’ tally by Adam Henderson, to close out the scoring.
Michigan State(7-16-3, 4-12-2-2 CCHA) travels to Sault Ste. Marie next weekend for a pair of contests against Lake Superior St. Michigan (18-8-0, 12-6-0-0 CCHA) takes on CCHA power Notre Dame in a home-and-home set next weekend.