DETROIT — After the Michigan State Spartans beat the Michigan Wolverines, 2-1, Saturday night in front of 17,577 fans in Joe Louis Arena, four days after announcing that he’s retiring at the end of this season, Michigan State coach Rick Comley made the game sound as though it was routine.
“That was good,” said Comley. “Big, fun hockey game. Obviously a good win for our kids. Hopefully, that will give some confidence to them. I told them this morning [that] they can’t always control how a day starts, but they can impact how it finishes.”
Indeed, the Spartans (11-13-4, 7-11-2-0 CCHA) impacted how the day finished. At 12:26 in the third, senior Joey Shean scored his first goal since Feb. 14, 2009 to put MSU ahead 2-1 — he didn’t play a single minute in 2009-10 — and freshman Will Yanakeff stopped Michigan’s Kevin Lynch on a penalty shot with 5:10 to go in regulation.
“You knew it would be a close game and we knew how precious goals would be,” Michigan coach Red Berenson. “They got the go-ahead goal, we got the opportunity with the penalty shot.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome. We had our chances at the end. When you’re playing from behind, it’s always tougher to score.
“Give them credit. Rick Comley’s a classy coach. I don’t know if that’s the last time I’ll coach against him, but it’s been an honor. This is a big win for them, disappointing for us.”
The game was wide open and scoreless through the first 39 minutes. In the final minute of the second, MSU scored on the power play and Michigan (17-7-4, 14-5-1-0 CCHA) answered 37 seconds later.
The Chelios brothers connected for their second goal of the season at 19:07 to given the Spartans that brief 1-0 lead. Sophomore Dean Chelios worked the puck behind the Michigan net to keep it in play and find a lane for freshman Jake Chelios, who one-timed it back past UM goaltender Shawn Hunwick from between the circles. Tonight was the first time the two started on the same line together, and Jake was moved from defense to make it happen.
Comley said he decided to combine the two in the third period of MSU’s 2-1 loss to Ferris State Thursday night.
“Because of the lack of scoring, we needed something at Ferris to try to get us going, and I put Dean Chelios to center — which he’s never played — and Jake to left wing, and that line sparked us up at Ferris. Right now, you’re kind of searching for every possible thing that might help you win a game.”
Caporusso scored at the other end at 19:44 after feeding the puck to himself though Matt Grassi’s legs in the Spartans’ crease and scoring on a backhanded shot as he fell in the paint. The second period ended tied, 1-1.
“We were hoping to get out of that period and unfortunately we were unable to,” said UM goaltender Shawn Hunwick, “but Louie answered right back which was huge. Fifteen seconds left to go into the second intermission one-one [could have] changed the game, but unfortunately we didn’t come out in the third and get another one.”
Shean’s game-winning goal was a pick-up of Zach Josepher’s shot through traffic near the blue line. Hunwick made the save and the puck came to Shean, who had to walk it by a Wolverines defender for a shot near the right post, beating Hunwick upstairs.
“It was a weird goal because I was kind of going in,” said Shean, “and then it popped out and so I skated backwards, so it was almost a fade-away shot. There was such traffic in front of the net, I just wanted to get it through and hopefully with so many guys in front of the net something had to happen.”
Lynch had his chance to even the game at 14:50 when Spartan Brock Shelgren was called for tripping.
“We had the option of taking the power play,” said Berenson,”It would’ve been a four-on-three power play and maybe you score on that, but you’re giving a player a chance to score who hasn’t scored in some time, so it’s one of those things.
“It’s a snap decision. You only have about 30 seconds to figure it out. It’s not that there’s a magic answer. You don’t know. You may not get a chance that good on the power play.”
The penalty shot was the second Yanakeff faced this season. He stopped Notre Dame’s Ben Ryan in his first start (Nov. 20, 2010). Tonight, he finished with 34 saves; Hunwick stopped 28 shots.
Asked about the significance this win, Comley joked, “I’ve enjoyed every win.”
He did add that he’s hoping this gives his team some confidence going down the stretch.
“When you play your rival, it’s always big. We’ve had some tough luck with Michigan over the last couple of years. Now that’s two wins this year to split the series, and that’s not an easy thing to do because they’re a very, very good team.”