Icers sweep weekend matchup with U-M, take first in CCHA
It might have seemed like the MSU hockey team won the Stanley Cup on Saturday night at Munn Ice Arena.
The MSU bench emptied. The Spartans charged and huddled around sophomore goaltender Drew Palmisano. And the crowd of 7,099 hockey fans – the fifth largest crowd in the history of Munn Ice Arena – were shouting at the top of their lungs.
The No. 14 Spartans defeated archrival No. 6 Michigan, 2-0, earning the weekend sweep and landing MSU in sole possession of first place in the CCHA.
The weekend sweep over U-M was the first of MSU head coach Rick Comley’s eight year tenure and avenged last season, where the Spartans lost all five meetings to the Wolverines.
“After last year getting hammered by them five times, it’s a good step,” Comley said of the sweep. “There’s a long way to go still, but it’s a good step.”
The victory extends the Spartans unbeaten streak to seven games (6-0-1) and extends the Wolverines losing skid to four games.
After last season’s slashing incident, the on-ice rivalry between junior forward Corey Tropp and U-M senior defenseman Steve Kampfer proved to be a non-factor again tonight.
After the Spartans 3-2 victory last night at Yost Ice Arena, Tropp and Kampfer didn’t shake hands when they came across each other during the post-game handshake. But tonight, the two shook hands at center ice and gave each other a friendly tap on the chest.
Sophomore goaltender Drew Palmisano stopped 31 shots to earn his second career shutout, en route to first-star honors.
“You can’t say enough,” freshman forward Chris Forfar said of Palmisano’s performance. “He’s a great goaltender and he stood on his head for us and made some huge saves. A lot of the reason we won was because of his saves.”
For the ninth time in 12 games, the Spartans notched the first goal of the game.
MSU took the 1-0 lead at 12:58 of the first period when sophomore forward Mike Merrifield intercepted a pass in the Spartans’ offensive zone and fired a sharp angle shot on U-M goaltender Bryan Hogan. Merrifield corralled his own rebound, took the puck behind the net and slid a pass right onto the tape of Forfar, who was waiting at the top of the crease.
“Merrifield did all the work on that play,” Forfar said. “I ended up being in the right spot at the right time and put it upstairs, hoping it would go in.”
Junior forward Dustin Gazley did all the dirty work for the Spartans on the team’s second goal of the night, which came at 1:22 of the third period. Gazley weaved around a U-M defenseman and lured Hogan out of his net. Then Gazley slipped a cross-ice pass behind Hogan to junior forward Andrew Rowe. Rowe simply had to tap the puck into the vacant net to give the Spartans the 2-0 lead.
“They turned it over and I picked it up,” Gazley said of his goal. “I almost shot it, but I held onto it. I waited pretty long then I just slid it over.”
The Spartans were quick to give a “shout out” to the huge crowd after the game, crediting them for helping the team hold onto the two goal lead.
“The crowd was awesome,” Gazley said. “It was great support from them. We can’t thank them enough. They were cheering us on all game.”
With nine wins, MSU (9-2-1 overall, 6-1-1 CCHA) is one win away from reaching last season’s win total, where the Spartans went 10-23-3 and finished in a tie for tenth place in the CCHA.
Check back Monday for a weekend recap of the series.