ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In a game that could have been decided by high drama and emotion, it was instead the mundane that did the trick.
Three Wolverine mistakes combined with heads-up Spartan play led to a 3-2 Michigan State victory over Michigan, propelling the Spartans into a tie for first place in the CCHA standings.
Andrew Rowe recovered a clearing attempt gone wrong in the first period, Corey Tropp beat Steve Kampfer in highlight-reel fashion in the second and Daultan Leveille followed the puck into the net for his third-period goal, courtesy of Chad Langlais’ stick.
Adding to the effort was Michigan State’s solid defense; Spartan goaltender Drew Palmisano faced just 19 shots in his sixth win of the season.
“I dont know if it was an A game for either team,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley, “but with the atmosphere and build-up to the game, I thought our young kids did a good job.”
The emotions normally run high when these traditional rivals meet, but the start of this game was especially charged because of more recent history. When these teams last played in January of this year, UM defenseman Steve Kampfer was double-teamed in the third period by Spartans Andrew Conboy and Corey Tropp.
Kampfer — who had been assaulted off the ice by a UM football player at the start of the season — left Yost on a gurney. Conboy was let go from the team; Tropp returned after serving a suspension for the remainder of the 2008-09 season.
That game was also the Wolverines’ fifth win of the 2008-09 campaign over the Spartans, who finished the season tied 10th place in the CCHA.
“I’m proud of our effort tonight,” said Comley. “I’m proud of the way that we handled the emotion and the atmosphere and stuck to our system and game plan.
“We’re finding that we can play with any team in the country. We’re still going to fight every night to gain back respect after a tough year last year, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that we’re happy with the efforts and results.”
The Spartans took the early lead on Rowe’s goal at 7:48 in the first.
UM goaltender Bryan Hogan came out behind the net to play the puck over to Tristan Llewellyn also along the boards behind the cage, but his pass hit the heel of Llewellyn’s stick and ricocheted to the front of the net, where Rowe was able to score before a scrambling Hogan could return to position.
Michigan’s Lee Moffie tied the game at 12:54 in the second after taking a centering pass from Matt Rust in the right corner. Moffie’s shot found its way through traffic and Palmisano’s knees for the Wolverine freshman’s first career goal.
It took the Spartans less than four minutes to counter, when Tropp netted his ninth goal of the season by deking Kampfer. After taking a pass from Matt Crandell, Tropp skated in to the right UM circle with Kampfer defending, dragged the puck, waited for the right moment, shot through the triangular space created by the upright of Kampfer’s body and Kampfer’s blade-to-ice stick, and found the far side of the net clean to give the Spartans the go-ahead goal at 16:03.
“The crowd was on him, but he was great,” said Comley. “Too much was made of the risk or fear but there was none of that. The building was great, the crowd was on him, but getting that goal was great for him.”
Leveille was credited with the third Spartan goal just 1:05 into the third, making it a 3-1 game.
As Leveille skated into the left UM circle he was brought down from behind by Chad Langlais. Leveille went hard into the net — but not before the puck crossed the goal line. The red light went on, but the official closest to the net raised his arm for the Langlais penalty without indicating that a goal was scored.
However, after lengthy review that included an overhead camera, the play was ruled a goal, negating the Langlais penalty and giving the Spartans a two-goal lead.
The rest of the third period was the best hockey of the night, with the Wolverines playing a more disciplined, systematic game, resulting in Carl Hagelin’s goal at 12:07 to draw UM to within one again. Both Hogan and Palmisano made solid saves in the late minutes of the game.
“I like the way we finished the game,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “I thought we had a little energy, a little momentum, we had some chances, but we’ve got to generate more.
“We had 12 shots at the 50 minute mark of the game at home. There’s no way that should happen. That’s what we’ve seen in recent games. We’re just not generating offense; our puck movement’s not good enough.”
Tonight’s loss is the third in a row at home for the Wolverines, a streak that last occurred in the first half of the 2001-02 season. The MSU win extends the Spartans’ undefeated streak to six games; the last such streak occurred for Michigan State in the first half of the 2007-08 season.
Michigan (4-5-0 overall, 2-3-0-0 in the CCHA) and Michigan State (8-2-1, 5-1-1-0) will meet in East Lansing at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday for the rematch.