FINAL: Minney records first career shutout, Spartans snap nine-game skid
The most-played rivalry in college hockey was renewed as the MSU hockey team (5-15-1, 1-6-0 Big Ten) traveled to Yost Ice Arena to take on the Michigan Wolverines (8-12-1, 1-6 Big Ten). In the opener of the home-and-home series, the Spartans banded together in an impressive shutout victory, 3-0.
Junior goaltender Ed Minney recorded the first shutout of his career with 24 saves. Along with his efforts, senior forward Chris Knudson scored his first career goal in his first game of the season.
The showdown between in-state foes was the second edition of the 2016-2017 season, as the teams met up in the Great Lakes Invitational as part of non-conference play.
This time around, though, the conference implications would raise the stakes for the cellar-dwellers of the Big Ten. MSU came in winless in Big Ten play, the Wolverines nearly matching the futile effort, just one win better than their opponent.
In arguably their most important game of the season, the Spartans started off red-hot, generating pressure down in the U-M zone.
An early power play just 1:38 into the game would give MSU the perfect chance to silence the home crowd. That, they did, as freshman forward Sam Saliba buried the puck into the net. After senior forward Thomas Ebbing's shot bounced off of U-M goalie Jack Lafontaine, the puck ended up right in front of Saliba, who gave the Spartans the 1-0 lead.
Throughout the first half of the opening period, the Spartans would continue piling on against the Wolverines. They would have a 9-3 shots on goal lead midway through the first, eventually holding onto the 12-9 advantage after 20 minutes of game play.
Against their bitter rival, the Spartans would take the 1-0 lead into the locker room.
The Wolverines, though, would have their own early chance to knot up the score in the second period. After a tripping call on sophomore forward Brennan Sanford, U-M would head to the man-advantage against the worst penalty-killing team in the NCAA.
The two-minute infraction would generate some spectacular looks for the Wolverines, but the Spartans hung on to kill the penalty and preserve their slim lead.
As the period unfolded, however, the Wolverines would continue to generate quality looks down in the Spartan zone. For extended periods, MSU was unable to get the puck out of its own zone, eventually culminating in the U-M offense having long looks at Minney.
With the Spartans denying U-M any momentum or a score, they would continue to add to its lead, the score courtesy of senior forward Chris Knudson 13:25 into the second. Sanford would find Knudson in front of the crease and Lafontaine, as the senior went top shelf, giving the Spartans the multi-goal lead.
MSU would take the lead to the second intermission, outshooting the Wolverines 26-20 after 40 minutes of play.
In similar fashion to the rest of the game, U-M would get great looks to the net, including an empty net, but it would be squandered as the shot would go wide left. Again, the Spartans would feast on the missed opportunities to create their own chances.
This time, it was fifth-year senior Connor Wood's turn. Sanford recorded his second assist of the night, finding Wood near the left circle. Wood's ensuing wristshot found its way across the line after it was initially deflected by Lafontaine, aiding the Spartan lead, 3-0, 10:45 left in the game.
As the rest of the showdown unfolded, the Wolverines would fall to the Spartans, 3-0. It wouldn't come without some extracurricular activities, however. Sanford and Wolverines defenseman Nicholas Boka both left the match for roughing.
The two teams will wrap up the home-and-home series tomorrow night at Munn Ice Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised on Big Ten Network.