DETROIT — Not since 1981 had Michigan or Michigan State not been in the championship game of the Great Lakes Invitational, but on Sunday afternoon, the two struggling CCHA teams battled in the consolation game of the annual tournament at Joe Louis Arena.
And after losing 5-2 to the Wolverines after leading 2-1 after 40 minutes, MSU coach Tom Anastos will take one thing with him from this weekend.
“Heartburn,” quipped Anastos. “We came here wanting and expecting more, so heartburn.”
Red Berenson’s comments were a little bit lighter on the Michigan side.
“Well, you’re used to me saying that we got off to a good start and I thought we did again,” Berenson said. “We played well in the early going, stayed with them throughout, and then got the goals when we needed them when it came down to it in the third period. We haven’t had much puck luck around the net in recent weeks and it was good to see the puck go in.”
Lee Moffie started the scoring at 4:20 of the opening period with a quick shot past MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand.
Cristoval Nieves then had a glorious chance to make it 2-0 Wolverines late in the first, but was stoned from in tight by Hildebrand (31 saves).
That save seemed to give the Spartans momentum and at 12:39, Tanner Sorenson capitalized.
Sorenson had the puck kicked to him behind the Michigan net by Lee Reimer, cut to Adam Janecyk’s left in the Michigan net and stuffed the puck short side.
The Spartans took a 2-1 lead at 15:41 of the first as Matt Berry swatted at a loose puck in front of Janecyk and the floating puck eluded the diving Travis Lynch and Janecyk. The play was reviewed briefly, but still a goal.
Janecyk finished with 35 saves in the game.
In the scoreless second period, Lynch had a golden opportunity in the goal mouth, but his one-timer was denied by Hildebrand, who also stopped Daniel Milne from point-blank range at 11:18 of the second.
Matt DeBlouw then cut through three Michigan skaters and was stopped by Janecyk.
Early in the third, Michigan’s Andrew Copp snapped a shot over Hildebrand’s glove at 1:29 to tie the game at 2-all.
“Growing up, you always want to put up points against State and the first play, I just made a nice little chip and A.J. [Treais] and Lee made a good play,” Copp said. “Throughout the game, I just thought I needed to be a little more physical. I hadn’t been using my size like I should and in the end, I got one through, it ended up going in and helped jumpstart my team.”
Just 47 seconds later, Kevin Lynch made it 3-2 Wolverines when he banged home a power-play goal after Treais’ initial shot clanged off the post.
Phil Di Giuseppe’s goal at 9:08 was a slam dunk, but the highlight was Luke Moffatt getting the puck to the right of Hildebrand, falling to one knee and spinning a backhand pass across the crease to a wide-open Di Giuseppe.
Treais drilled DeBlouw with an open-ice hit to the head late in the third and earned a five-minute major and game misconduct.
Seconds later, Zach Hyman had an empty net, was tripped on the way in by MSU captain Greg Wolfe, missed the net, but was awarded the goal when the officials determined Wolfe threw his stick at Hyman.
“This game, to us, didn’t feel like a consolation game,” Berenson said. “We have too much respect for our rival [and] we knew it was going to be a big game. It’s a bigger game than a consolation game. I know it’s not the Stanley Cup, but it’s a good win for Michigan.”