EAST LANSING, Mich. – Down a goal before the game was two minutes old and trailing 3-1 after the first period, Michigan State came from behind to beat Michigan, 4-3, giving goaltender Will Yanakeff his second win of the year — and an emotional one at that.
“It was really emotional,” said Yanakeff, a senior who’s played just five games this season because of illness and injury. “I’m not going to lie. You know it’s a great feeling. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like this. I’ve got to say that I’m really happy that we got this one.”
Yanakeff came in at the start of the second period, replacing sophomore Jake Hildebrand, who was responsible for the three first-period Michigan goals. Michigan State coach Tom Anastos credited Yanakeff with turning the Spartans’ game around.
“I’m really happy for our team,” said Anastos. “I think it says how we fought back; it says a lot about perseverance that they have played with all season and it says a lot about Will fighting back, too. He’s had a tough go. He really was the main reason why we won.”
The first period of this game was all Michigan, one night after the Wolverines beat the Spartans 7-1 in Ann Arbor. Luke Moffatt scored at 1:15 after stripping a Spartan of the puck right in front of the Michigan State net, and at 4:43, Boo Nieves made it 2-0 from the bottom of the right circle.
Greg Wolfe cut the Wolverines’ lead to one goal at 11:58 when he threw the puck at the net and it went in off a Michigan defender, but Michigan extended its lead to two goals again on Phil Di Giuseppe’s 11th of the season at 17:23, a slap shot from the right point.
“I liked the way our team started,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We knew they would bounce back. I thought we kept them on their heels for half a game. We get back in the game with a 3-1 lead, we can’t kill a penalty, we give up that goal and now it’s a new game in the third period. It comes down to whoever wants it the most and they got the jump on us, simple as that.”
With Yanakeff in net in the second, the Spartans settled into a better game, winning that period on Lee Reimer’s power-play goal at 16:00 to make it 3-2. Goals by Michael Ferrantino and Mackenzie MacEachern a little over a minute apart in the early going in the third period gave Michigan State the 4-3 lead.
“That was a great win and for a lot of reasons,” said Anastos. “Last night was the worst loss since I’ve been here, in terms of how we performed, and I was concerned how it would impact us because I thought our confidence was pretty fragile, given that we’ve been struggling to score goals and how the game went last night.
“You talk about kind of turning the page, looking ahead, and then the game starts the way it did and we hadn’t turned the page yet it seems. And then for whatever reason, we started to climb back in.”
The four-goal output marked the first time that the Spartans registered more than three goals in Big Ten conference play this season, and this was the first game in which Michigan State netted more than three goals since Dec. 1.
The loss guarantees that Michigan (17-11-4, 9-7-2-1 Big Ten), now seven points behind second-place Wisconsin, can finish no higher than third place in the final Big Ten standings. The Spartans (10-17-7, 4-8-6-4 Big Ten) are in fifth place, two points behind Ohio State.
Next weekend, the Wolverines finish the regular season at home with two games against league-leading Minnesota, while Michigan State will end its season with a two-game home series against Wisconsin.