DETROIT — Coming into tonight’s game, Michigan State and Michigan had faced off three times this season with a tally of 1-1-1, so no one was surprised when tonight’s contest from Joe Louis Arena went into overtime.
The play that ended this game, though – Kevin Lynch’s sixth marker of the season at 1:50 in OT – caught everyone off guard.
Everyone but Lynch, that is.
With Michigan pressing in the Michigan State zone, the puck rolled to Matt Crandell, who went down on one knee to trap, but the puck bounced through the MSU defenseman’s legs and onto the stick of Lynch, who punched it past Will Yanakeff for the win.
What’s not surprising is that it was Lynch that found the puck. He has six goals to his credit now this season, three of them against MSU.
“I’ve been kind of fortunate to get points when I play them,” said Lynch.
Even Lynch was surprised at how the play unfolded.
“I just saw the puck and … the defenseman made kind of a soft play,” said Lynch. “I thought he was going to have it for sure, so I didn’t expect that. When I got it, I tried to make a quick play to the net.”
As bounces go, this was a big one.
The Spartans and Wolverines – along with Lake Superior State – were deadlocked with 38 points each and in third place in the CCHA standings coming into this game.
“It sucks no matter how it happens – a good play, a bad play,” said MSU coach Tom Anastos. “You just never know. We had chances at the other end. I still haven’t seen it, so I don’t even know how the puck ended up bouncing that way and going into the net.
“Regardless, it’s a game-losing goal, so it sucks either way.”
This game very well could have gone another way.
In the third period, it was Michigan State pressing repeatedly and the Spartans also had a power play at 13:59 when Luke Moffatt went to the box for hooking. After MSU scored two third-period power-play goals to beat UM 3-2 Friday night, the Wolverines knew they had to double down to escape a similar fate.
“Coach [Red Berenson] came in and he wasn’t too happy this morning with the amount of penalties that we took,” said Lynch, “especially in the games that we’ve lost this season. Penalties have been the cause of that.
“Late in the game, you don’t want to take a penalty. [Shawn] Hunwick stood on his head the entire game. We’re were just going to battle through that, whatever it was going to take to kill that penalty off was what we were going to do.”
“Yesterday we just kind of lost our focus there, took way too many penalties,” said A.J. Treais, who scored Michigan’s first two goals. “We gave them a power play there in the third [tonight] and that was a scare. You’ve just got to bear down, focus, and you’ve just got to bring your game.”
It’s no surprise that Treais, a junior, had the first two for the Wolverines in this one as he had four career goals at Joe Louis Arena coming into the game. His first goal tonight gave Michigan the 1-0 lead after one, while his second tied the game after the Spartans scored two in the second period.
Both Yanakeff and Hunwick had outstanding games, Yanakeff with 32 saves and Hunwick with 33. Treais said that the Wolverines were having difficulty solving Yanakeff, so that break in the end was just what they needed.
“Usually he stops the first shot and you’ve got to get to the rebound to score on him,” said Treais. “It’s just one bounce in these rivalry games. It could’ve easily been their game.”