DETROIT — When he stepped onto the ice in the opening game of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament Thursday, Michigan State goaltender Drew Palmisano hadn’t faced a live shot in game action for 19 days, dating back to Michigan State’s 3-3 tie with Michigan on Dec. 10 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots the Wolverines directed at him.
Palmisano made up for lost time in the Spartans’ 3-1 victory over tournament host Michigan Tech at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
The Michigan State senior netminder shook off whatever rust he had accumulated during the holiday break and stopped 45 of the 46 shots the Huskies fired his way. Palmisano carried a shutout through the game’s first 47 minutes, turning aside the first 37 shots he faced.
“Palmisano was really good tonight,” Michigan State coach Tom Anastos pointed out post-game. “He gave us a chance to win. We didn’t know what to expect. The break was long break, but he had a focus when he came back.”
Palmisano himself acknowledged the difficulty in playing the game with such little preparation.
“It’s hard to find ice,” said Palmisano of his holiday break. “But you do what you can. When we got back, you just try to get as many shots as you can.
“I felt like I was in control. Our defense had a lot of blocked shots. They kept all the rebounds out, which helped me out.”
Palmisano’s 47-save performance was one shy of his career-high.
“I don’t really keep track of shots during the game,” said Palmisano. “It seemed like they were trying to throw everything at the net and crash for rebounds.”
Greg Wolfe and Chris Forfar did the initial offensive damage for Michigan State with identical-looking one-time shots from just outside the goalmouth. Wolfe gave the Spartans the lead in the first period and Forfar extended that lead in the second period.
Michigan Tech finally broke through against Palmisano and the Spartans at 7:28 of the third period on a five-on-three power play advantage. Ryan Furne blasted a shot from the point to draw MTU within one, 2-1.
Brett Perlini iced the Spartan victory with an empty-net goal with 14 seconds remaining in the contest.
MSU captain Torey Krug was quick to point out the importance of goaltending in the rebound season Michigan State is enjoying.
“Every time Palmy’s gotten in the net, he’s given our team a chance to win,” Krug observed. “We’ve been in every game this season. Our goaltenders have been a big part of that. When you have Palmy, or Will (Yanakeff), you’re not scared to take risks. You know they’re going to make the big save for you.”
Michigan Tech came into the touurnament hoping to jump-start the second half of its season.
“They got that power-play goal early and that set the tone,” said Huskies coach Mel Pearson. “I thought Palmisano played a real good game. We made it easy on him though. We didn’t get in front of him. We didn’t get to rebounds.”
Michigan State’s victory vaults them into Friday’s tournament final against the winner of the late Thursday semifinal between Michigan and Boston College. Michigan Tech will face the loser of that contest in a consolation match Friday afternoon.