ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For 40 minutes, it looked like anything but a game played between two teams separated by eight positions in the CCHA standings.
Shawn Hunwick’s shutout goaltending and Carl Hagelin’s two-goal performance paced Michigan to a 4-0 whitewash of Michigan State Saturday night at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor.
However, the result was in doubt until the Wolverines exploded for three third period goals.
“It was 1-0 going into the third,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “I thought Hunwick, up until that point, had been excellent. He had 10 or 12 really top-notch saves. If you can get on the board, you relax and can play a bit. Then, they got that second one off a faceoff. That thing (the puck) went up in the air and it seemed to take the life out of ‘Palmy’ (Spartana goatender Drew Palmisano) a little bit. For two periods, we played really well.”
Hunwick’s shutout was his second blanking of the Spartans in his last three games against the Wolverines in-state rival. The senior goaltender had also shut out Michigan State in mid-December at The Big Chill, the outdoor contest held at Michigan Stadium.
“Hunwick got the shutout and he earned it,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Early in the game, he made some key saves and the game could have tilted one way or the other.
“I thought our team started slow tonight. We were tentative and I think State played a good road game. They were strong and we were vulnerable for the first half of the game. Then, we started to pick it up. I thought the first goal was important. The second goal was huge and the third goal was comforting. You saw what happened in recent games with two-goal leads, whether we had it or their team had it. The games can turn around. The third period tonight was our best period of the weekend.”
Although neither of Hagelin’s goals could be considered classic efforts, the pair of goals gave him a total of 11 career markers, supplemented by eight assists for a career total of 19 points in his eighteen games played against the Spartans.
“Sometimes you’re lucky,” pointed out Berenson of Hagelin’s pair of goals. “Some guys can do it on a regular basis, but we got lucky tonight. The first and second periods were lucky. The puck was going in for us tonight and last night, the puck was going in for them.”
Palmisano drew the starting assignment due to a slight groin injury suffered by Will Yanakeff in Saturday morning’s pre-game skate.
Palmisano had every reason to be motivated to perform well.
After being the primary Spartans netminder through the first half of the season, Palmisano was replaced by freshman Yanakeff mid-game in the Michigan State’s first game back after the holiday break, a first round Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) tourney contest against Colorado College. Yanakeff backstopped the struggling Spartans to two straight wins, one against Michigan Tech in the GLI third place game and then again in Michigan State’s Friday night’s home overtime victory against Michigan.
“I think he played great,” said Comley of Palmisano’s performance. “No reward, but he played well.”
As in Friday night’s series opening contest between the two rivals, there was little to choose between the two in the game’s opening period.
“We played really well in the first,” said Comley. “If you can score, maybe it changes the mood of the game.”
After a scoreless first period, Michigan finally dented the score sheet on a power play opportunity early in the second period.
Just six seconds into a power play at 5:50 of the middle stanza, Hagelin’s shot from a sharp angle along the right half-boards somehow eluded Palmisano, giving Michigan a 1-0 lead. The innocent-looking play provided the period’s only score, yet gave Michigan a huge boost in confidence and momentum.
That confidence boosted the Wolverines to a three-goal third period.
Hagelin’s second goal of the game was one he both started and finished. The Michigan senior captain won the faceoff in the Spartans zone, drawing the puck back to Chad Langlais at the right point. Langlais’ shot was tipped by Hagelin in the slot and fluttered past Palmisano at 5:14, widening the Michigan lead to 2-0.
Late in the period, Michigan capitalized on a five-on-three advantage when A.J. Treais converted Louie Caporusso’s pass at 15:20.
Michigan freshman defenseman Mac Bennett finished the scoring at 17:49 of the third period, trailing on a Wolverines offensive thrust and picking the upper corner of the net over Palmisano’s glove with a bullet from the top of the right circle.
“We got one (victory on the weekend),” said Comley. “We had to get that first one. Beating Michigan was big. Beating them at home was big. They’re good. They skate well and they’re really good. We just have to keep fighting the battle.”
The Spartans (8-11-3, 4-9-1-0 CCHA) continue their quest to move up in the CCHA standings with a two-game trip to Sault Ste. Marie next weekend to take on Lake Superior State.
Michigan (13-6-4, 10-4-1-0 CCHA) stays in-state as well with a home-and-home series with Ferris State.