EAST LANSING, Mich. — A perfect game is one thing, but a perfect game against an archrival is nearly indescribable.
After he stopped all 31 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season, a 2-0 win over Michigan, Spartans’ goaltender Drew Palmisano said that the weekend “was definitely up there” among the best of his career.
“For us to get two,” said Palmisano, “especially one at Yost and then to come back here tonight, the atmosphere was incredible.”
The 7,099 fans in Munn Ice Arena watched Palmisano and the Michigan State defense shut down the struggling Wolverines while Chris Forfar and Andrew Rowe made the most of their chances in the win.
It was the first time that MSU had swept UM in back-to-back games since the 1997-98 season. The Wolverines beat the Spartans five times in the 2008-09 season and last night’s 3-2 win in Ann Arbor was the first for MSU against UM since Feb. 22, 2008.
“I thought we really struggled in the first period,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “Lost our system, lost our style of play, and kind of played their game up and down the ice. Got it back under control in the second and third.
“After last year, getting hammered by them five times, it’s a good step. A long way to go yet, but a good step.”
The Spartans led 1-0 after one on Forfar’s fourth goal of the season, set up by Mike Merrifield.
Merrifield took the initial shot from the right circle and Bryan Hogan made the save, but the puck came back to Merrifield, who skated it around the back of the net before backhanding it across the crease to Forfar, whose one-timer beat Hogan quick and clean at 12:58.
Rowe’s second goal of the weekend made it 2-0 at 1:22 in the third, and it was the end result of another Michigan turnover near the UM net, as was his marker in the first period Friday night.
UM’s Brandon Burlon played the puck out of the right corner to clear it across the crease, but instead of hitting its intended mark of Steve Kampfer, the puck was intercepted by Dustin Gazley, who skated back in to the right of the net. With Hogan drawn to defend Gazley’s shot and Burlon diving to deflect, Gazley hit Rowe by the left post for the easy, nearly slow-motion goal.
“They turned it over, I picked it up,” said Gazley. “It was a two-on-one and I almost shot it. I
held on to it and waited pretty long and just slid it over to him. He had a back door and put it in
In spite of the two-goal difference, this contest was closer than last night’s 3-2 decision. Michigan coach Red Berenson said that he thought his squad “played well” tonight.
“We definitely played better,” said Berenson. “We played with more purpose and more conviction. We weren’t rewarded.”
The Michigan offense managed just 19 shots on goal in Friday’s loss, and Palmisano said he suspected tonight’s game would be more competitive.
“We knew that they were going to come back a lot stronger than last night, being a little mad losing three in a row,” said Palmisano. “We had to be prepared for that and match their intensity. They crashed the net a little bit more tonight, which I’m fine with. The defense did a good job of making sure that there was nothing after the whistle and being smart.”
Berenson said that for Michigan, losing is a team effort, but that Hogan, who had 17 saves, wasn’t the problem.
“When you’re giving up unearned goals, you can say that you’re goalie isn’t playing that well. Well, he gave us a chance tonight. There’s no question.”
With the win, the Spartans (9-2-1, 6-1-1 CCHA) extend their undefeated streak to seven games, their longest such streak since the start of the 2007-08 season, and MSU now leads all teams in the country with nine overall wins.
The Wolverines have now lost four in a row, something they haven’t done since the first half of the 2005-06 season.
Next up for Michigan State is a Thursday-Sunday series against Notre Dame. The Spartans host the Nov. 19 game in Munn Ice Arena, while the Nov. 22 contest will be played in the Allen County War Memorial Colosseum in Fort Wayne, Ind., the site of this year’s NCAA Midwest Regional.
Next up for Michigan is a Friday-Saturday series against Bowling Green, with UM hosting Nov. 20 in Yost Ice Arena and BGSU hosting in the Lucas County Arena in Toledo, Ohio, the following night.