MSU hockey upsets No. 5 Michigan in an OT thriller in Detroit
The fate of the most complete effort by this Spartan hockey team (7-18-2) rested on the stick of university of Michigan’s Dexter Dancs. A streaking Dancs broke into the zone unabated on a breakaway looking to end it. He slowed and cocked his stick ready to fire, but a hustling freshman Mason Appleton caught up, dove and swatted the puck off Dancs’ stick, salvaging what was left of a dismal season.
It proved to be the defining moment that would get lost in the shuffle. It was the most clutch interstate rivalry play since Jalen Watts-Jackson's shocker in The Big House.
“I guess it was big,” Appleton said. “Game over if they bury that.”
Minutes later and building off the momentum of Appleton’s game-saving play, Joe Cox was slashed in front of the net giving the Spartans their sixth power play of the night. A minute and one second into that power play, junior Villiam Haag fed senior Matt DeBlouw who let go a one time blast that rang off the post and into the net. It ended the upset bid and gave MSU a 3-2 overtime victory.
“I didn't even see it go in, I didn't even know it went in,” Deblouw said. “I saw Ebbing and Cox running over to me; I think it’s just more gratifying to see that for my teammates and know that we accomplished something together.”
A sold out crowd of 22,027 at Joe Louis Arena witnessed a doozy of game that saw MSU play it’s most complete effort and hold the staunch U-M offense at bay. After churning out 20 goals in the first two matchups it was only fitting that neither team would be able to find the twine in the opening frame of this one.
Much as it had all season, U-M's speed showed through, keeping MSU from generating an attack. It's wheels nearly burned the Spartans twice on odd man rushes but a save by Jake Hildebrand and a close offsides call kept MSU from trailing.
The game seemed destined to be deadlocked forever as both teams missed chance after chance. U-M's power play chance became a Spartan chance when a racing Joe Cox broke to the net on a partial breakaway and was hauled down. Awarded a penalty shot, he waltzed in, deked from backhand to forehand, and slid the puck passed the Wolverines netminder Steve Racine.
“He’s pretty good,” DeBlouw said of Cox. “He did something else to that goalie, that was a sick move.”
“I went to talk to Hildy,” Cox said of the thought process of his goal. “I said ‘Hey what’re you thinking?’ and he goes, ‘well he likes to spread his legs,’ and that’s all I really needed.”
MSU held tight to the lead from there, holding firm on a barrage of U-M opportunities, due in large part to the performance of Hildebrand, who stopped 40 shots in the game.
But just as a Wolverines' power play became an MSU goal, so too did the Wolverines capitalize on an MSU man advantage situation.
As time expired on the power play, a Niko Porikos clearing attempt landed on the stick of Tyler Motte who caught it as he stepped out of the box. Motte walked in on the breakaway, froze Hildebrand with a head fake and buried the shot stick side, tying the game at one a piece.
The third period proved to the be the most exciting period of the night. A shot by Michael Ferrantino slipped behind U-M goalie Steve Racine and hung in the air just over the goal line, or so it seemed. The refs waved off the potential goal which drew the ire of MSU fans in the building.
But it didn’t faze the Spartans, who stayed resilient in the face of adversity throughout the night.
“Our team; I’ve said all along has really stayed together,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “I admire how hard these guys are working through some adversity.”
Just before the halfway point of the third, the largely dormant “CCM” line, Connor, Compher and Motte, woke up. A circling Compher fed Motte a no look pass from behind the net, which he buried making it 2-1.
MSU answered again nearly four minutes later. John Draeger walked out the corner and fed Cox, who wristed the puck off the blocker of Racine and into the net tying the game at 2-2.
Cox was a force all night for the Spartans. Doing almost everything a hockey player can do with maximum effort. He proved to be the difference.
“The effort you saw tonight; he gives every single day,” Anastos said of Cox. “Not just in a big game on a stage like tonight; it could be Munn Area, six people in the building at 3:15 in the afternoon. It’s nice to see good players, good kids, hard working guys get rewarded.”
Thanks to Appleton, DeBlouw, Hildebrand, Cox, etc., a dismal season will have at least one shining bright spot. A win at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, in front of a capacity crowd, against their rivals in the longest running college hockey rivalry and the first hoisting of a newly inaugurated rivalry trophy.
“I can’t explain it, it was amazing,” Cox said of DeBlouw’s game winning goal. “For everything to work out tongiht the way that it did, it was awesome, it...”
He couldn’t finish the thought, he was at a loss for words.