There simply was no quit in Michigan State Friday night in Ann Arbor’s Yost Arena against rival Michigan.
Trailing 4-1 entering the final period, the Spartans clawed their way back into the game with two power-play goals early in the period, and then threw everything they could muster at Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick.
Hunwick saved a 4-3 win for the Wolverines, turning aside 12 shots from the pressing Michigan State squad through the furious final 1:23 when Michigan State pulled their netminder Will Yanakeff for an extra attacker.
“I told the guys going into the third period that we were going to score a power-play goal on that first power play,” said Michigan State coach Tom Anastos of the goal that pulled the Spartans within two goals, 4-2. “Then, we were going to work on getting the third goal. Then, we were going to get the fourth goal.”
“And,” Anastos smiled wryly, “we followed the script up until the fourth goal.”
Matt Berry’s goal after sustained power-play pressure at 1:50 of the third period was the spark that ignited the Spartans third period push, drawing the Saprtans within two, 4-2.
Another Michigan penalty led to Brent Darnell’s power-play goal at 5:55. After Brock Shelgren’s shot bounced off the glass behind Hunwick, it rebounded into the Michigan cage off a combination of Darnell’s stick, Michigan defenseman Greg Pateryn’s stick, and Hunwick’s back. Darnell’s third goal of the season narrowed the margin to one goal, 4-3.
Michigan State then pressured the remainder of the period, just falling short of tying the game.
“It was crazy,” said Hunwick of the final few seconds. “The puck was all over the zone. They were all over us. We were lucky to get out of that with a win, but a lot of times it goes a different way”
Michigan snapped a four-game home losing streak with the win.
“We battled hard,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We were hanging on there for a couple of shifts, especially on the PK when we couldn’t get off.
“They eventually scored, but our team went out the next shift and played hard and stayed in the game. I think our team is a better team than we were two weeks ago, or two months ago. We haven’t had a lot to show for it, but this was an important game, obviously, an important win.”
From the opening face off, Michigan State served notice early with a furious forecheck that they were a different team than Michigan had seen the past few seasons. Despite the pressure, the Wolverines drew first blood in the opening period.
After being bottled up in their own zone, Michigan center David Wohlberg managed to break down the right wing bearing in on Yanakeff. Using teammate Alex Guptill as a decoy, Wohlberg found an opening high on the short side to give Michigan a 1-0 lead at 5:58.
It took exactly 14 seconds for Michigan State to answer.
At 6:12, Spartans senior Matt Crandell bagged his second goal of the season on an innocent-looking shot from the deep left point that somehow eluded Hunwick to knot the score at one.
Chris Brown gave Michigan a 2-1 lead at 11:39 that the Wolverines carried into the first intermission. Lee Moffie bounced a pass high off the boards on the left side at his own blue line to send Brown streaking into the Michigan State zone on his off wing. Brown used the reach and strength from his 6-foot, 2-inch, 207-pound frame to cut in around a Spartans defender across the front of the net, where he slipped the puck between Yankeff’s pads.
Michigan opened the second period with a strong offensive burst, but didn’t break through on the score sheet till late in the middle period, when they scored a pair of goals to open a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Wolverines freshman Alex Guptill scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season on a totally individual effort at 15:47. Guptill stole the puck from Spartans defenseman Shelgren in the circle to Yanakeff’s right, bore in on the Michigan State netminder, and found an opening over Yanakeff’s glove in the upper corner of the net.
Extending the Michigan lead to 4-1 at 18:49, Kevin Lynch accepted Derek DeBlois pass from behind the net and banged a shot from the goalmouth that Yanakeff partially blocked. The momentum from the shot carried the puck into the far lower corner of the net.
Michigan State then applied their third period pressure, keyed by the power play, to nearly pull off the comeback.
“No quit in that team,” said Anastos of his squad. “I never doubted that for one second. We didn’t play the kind of game for two periods that we worked on all week. Credit to them (Michigan). I thought they played a real good game. We made lots of turnovers all over the ice. Against a team like this that thrives on that, you’ve got to be more patient with your game. We dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t dig out of.”
“We knew it would be a tough team,” Berenson offered. “I think the 4-1 lead kind of surprised everyone. Michigan State came back and got that early goal and it was a new game in the third period. I like the way we battled hard.”
Michigan (9-8-2, 5-6-2-1 CCHA) and Michigan State (10-6-1, 6-5-0-0 CCHA) renew the battle Saturday night at Munn Arena in East Lansing in the finale of the two-game weekend series.