With goals from Villiam Haag and Matt DeBlouw, Michigan State upset No. 13 Michigan, 2-1, in front of a sold out crowd in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
“I thought we played real hard,” said Michigan State coach Tom Anastos. “I thought we played from the start of the game until the end of the game. With the exception of a key piece in the second period, early in the second period, I liked our game.”
The Spartans shut down the seemingly unstoppable Michigan offense, a unit that has led the nation in scoring offense with an average of 4.36 goals per game for the season coming into tonight’s game, and a squad that has averaged 7.5 goals per game in its last four contests.
“It’s pretty obvious what happened,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “Everyone builds this game up as an offense against defense, and you know what happens: defense wins.
“It’s pretty clear to us. The puck’s not going to go in easy every night. We’ve got to play better than we played if we’re going to win close games. We’ve had it pretty easy the last few games and the puck has gone our way, and it didn’t tonight.”
The Spartans scored in the first and third periods, with Haag opening with a goal at 3:09 from Joe Cox. After Zach Hyman missed Michigan State’s net, Haag collected the puck and skated it up the right wing, dishing left to Cox, who passed back to Haag in the right circle. Haag sent a one-timer high up past UM’s Zach Nagelvoort for the 1-0 lead.
Dylan Larkin evened the score for the Wolverines on a power play at 16:08 in the first, taking a pass from Hyman from behind the net, gloving the puck to the ice and then firing past Jake Hildebrand long from the right circle to make it 1-1.
The Wolverines had their chances in the second with nearly two minutes of four-on-three hockey. Michigan’s Dancs Dexter and Michigan State’s DeBlouw went to the box for offsetting roughing calls at 14:08, then Spartan Ron Boyd took a penalty for hooking at 14:26. The result was a few more shots on goal for the Wolverines but nothing especially challenging. Michigan’s power play had been clicking at a rate of 42.5 percent in the Wolverines’ previous 10 games.
“Our penalty kill stepped up when we needed it,” said Anastos. “Was that a five-on-three or a four-on-three? Seemed like a ten-on-three, but that four-on-three was a huge kill.”
At 1:58 in the third, DeBlouw tipped in Rhett Holland’s shot from the right side — actually, tipped it toward Michigan defender Cutler Martin, whose skate was the last thing the puck touched before zipping by Nagelvoort.
“Defensively, we were really solid,” said Anastos. We made them earn every bit of space and that’s what we needed to do. That’s a very good and very explosive offensive team.”
Nagelvoort made 26 saves in the loss and Hildebrand 29 in the win, but Anastos said that Hildebrand wasn’t called on to do anything but his job.
“I thought he was real steady. I thought he handled everything; he looked very poised. I didn’t think he had to make any spectacular saves, which he’s very capable of doing, but I just thought his play was steady all night — sort of like our team.”
The Spartans (10-11-2, 4-3-2-2 Big Ten) and Wolverines (15-8-0, 7-2-0-0 Big Ten) will meet again next Saturday, Feb. 7, at 7:00 p.m. in Chicago’s Soldier Field for the Hockey City Classic.