EAST LANSING, Mich. — Sometimes, a tie is more — or less — than a tie. After Michigan State captured the extra shootout point following a 3-3 home tie against Michigan, the Spartans celebrated as though they’d won some hardware and the Wolverines responded as though they hadn’t captured four of six possible points in the home-and-home series.
“The Michigan State-Michigan rivalry is one of the biggest in college hockey,” said senior Spartans goaltender Drew Palmisano, who made 35 saves on 38 shots and stopped all three of Michigan’s overtime shooters. “It always feels good to beat these guys at home.”
Michigan coach Red Berenson, whose team led 3-2 late in the third before a turnover led to the tying goal on the Spartans’ power play, said the four points from Friday night’s 4-3 win and tonight’s tie did not feel like an accomplishment.
“Not when you play well enough to win,” said Berenson. “Not when you have the lead in the third period and you give it up. We had the penalty kill and we made a mistake and we turned it over and bang it was in the net. It’s not acceptable.”
Before MSU’s Matt Berry got the puck by Wolverines goaltender Shawn Hunwick in the second round of the shootout to give the Spartans two points on the night, this was a clean, back-and-forth hockey game during which no penalties were called until the opening minute of the third period — and which came down to a defenseman’s mistake on a penalty kill late in the game.
Less than 20 seconds before Kevin Lynch’s penalty for holding was to expire, Wolverines defender Lee Moffie attempted to clear the puck right in front of the Michigan crease. Instead, he sent it straight to Lee Reimer in the slot, who popped it straight back past Hunwick to tie the game at 16:07.
Berenson said the execution of Moffie’s clearing attempt was “not acceptable.”
“I thought we played a really good,” said Berenson. “I thought we had a good chance to win that game. Unfortunate that we took a penalty — I can’t tell you if it was a good call or not — the penalty really got them back in the game.”
The Wolverines scored first in this one, but the first period ended 2-1 in favor of the Spartans. Chris Brown picked up Alex Guptill’s rebound at 6:35 to give Michigan the early 1-0 lead, but Spartans Torey Krug and Chris Forfar scored less than three minutes apart to push MSU ahead. Krug’s bullet from the left point changed directions after hitting a Wolverine and went in at 13:07 to even the score, and Forfar finished a play that began when Anthony Hayes intercepted Hunwick’s clearing attempt at 15:41.
Luke Moffatt’s backhander from the far left of the slot evened the score again, 2-2, at 10:24 in the second, and the Wolverines recaptured the lead on David Wohlberg’s goal at 13:33 in the third, another pickup of a rebound on an initial shot by Guptill.
The Wolverines outshot the Spartans 8-0 in overtime. “I thought we had our chances in overtime and it wasn’t going in,” said Berenson. “The shootout can come down to anybody scoring. It’s too bad that it comes down to that. It was a good effort by our team, a good game, but not a good finish.”
In post-game, MSU coach Tom Anastos — long-time commissioner of the CCHA and the man who pioneered the shootout for the league — began by addressing just that. “I was thinking, ‘Who was this crazy guy who came up with this shootout thing?’” It was the first shootout of the year for the Spartans.
Anastos praised his team for keeping its cool late in the game. “When we fell behind in the third period, I liked the poise of the players and how businesslike they were. They hung together and just kept working.”
“I thought we did a good job of containing Michigan,” said Krug, the MSU captain. “It’s a lot of fun playing them. Obviously, with the rivalry game, there’s a lot of emotions floating around. It’s good to get that extra point in the shootout and a good first half. ”
The Spartans (10-6-2, 6-5-1-1 CCHA) and Wolverines (9-8-3, 5-6-3-1 CCHA) entered the game in a three-way tie for seventh in league standings — along with Miami — each with 18 points, but Michigan State will end the first half tied for sixth with Northern Michigan, each with 20 points, and the Wolverines have sole possession of eighth place with 19 points.
Each team returns to action in the Great Lakes Invitational December 29. MSU will face Michigan Tech at 4:00 p.m. and Michigan will play Boston College at 7:30 p.m.