EAST LANSING, Mich. — Sometimes life changes in mere moments.
A traffic accident.
A marriage proposal.
Three unanswered goals three minutes apart.
A tying goal scored with 26 seconds left in regulation.
This 5-5 overtime tie between Northern Michigan and Michigan State saw the Wildcats leading 2-0 by the 10:25 mark of the first on goals tipped in by Brian Nugent and Justin Florek. That was before the Spartans scored three unanswered within roughly three minutes – from 11:16 to 14:18 in the first – with an additional goal at 18:48 to make it 4-2 for good measure.
And, of course, that was before the Wildcats scored at 19:56 in the first. In fact, NMU scored in the final minute of every period of this game, drawing even on Tyler Gron’s goal with the extra attacker at 19:34 in the third.
In the shootout, MSU’s Drew Palmisano stopped all three NMU shooters while Matt Berry’s second-round shot gave Michigan State an extra point. Given the resolution of the game – and a victory that was less than 30 seconds away – it’s not surprising that MSU coach Tom Anastos had mixed feelings about the outcome.
“I didn’t think our energy level was where we wanted it to be to start the game,” said Anastos. “Parts of the game I was happy with and parts of the game I certainly don’t feel good about. I’m looking forward to looking back at the game tonight and watching it again.”
From the other bench, the emotions were less mixed, but the feedback was similar.
“I thought we did a good job,” said NMU coach Walt Kyle. “When we changed our goalie, we changed momentum. Prior to Christmas, we were playing pretty sound defensively, and we didn’t [tonight] for a period and a half. I thought we became much better defensively later and we had some timely scoring.
“We got a couple breaks. Both of those goals were tipped in front of the kid. You’ve got to put pucks to the net and we had people there. It is what it is. They weren’t going to back off. There was a lot of hockey left at that point.”
Reid Ellingson started in Northern’s net but was replaced by Jared Coreau after Tim Buttery scored at 6:25 in the second, giving the Spartans a 5-3 lead.
The goals weren’t Ellingson’s fault, said Kyle.
“He played just fine,” Kyle surmised. “Goals went in and the momentum needed to be changed. We win the game if I do that earlier.”
The final two goals allowed by Palmisano were fluky as well. Scott Macaulay floated one from the left circle over Palmisano’s shoulder at 19:47 in the second, and Gron’s tying goal, well, is best described by Anastos.
“That last goal was a series of both mistakes and a bad break,” said Anastos. “Torey [Krug] had a play and it ends up in their bench so now the faceoff’s in our zone. For a start, it’s there. The play goes to the point. The linesman – I believe it’s the linesman – has not been able to get out of the zone yet. They threw it along the boards. The linesman’s along the boards. Torey cheated behind the net because he was on the guy who scored the goal. The puck went off the linesman’s skate [and] bounced right on their stick and he threw it across.
“Tough break, and you make your breaks, and we didn’t tonight.”
“Certainly,” said Kyle, “I was proud of the way the guys were able to get that goal in the end.”
The teams will meet again Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. in Munn Ice Arena.