As commissioner of the CCHA, Tom Anastos not a big fan of ties. Despite mixed reactions on the issue, Anastos made the decision in 2008 to institute a shootout for CCHA teams in the instance of a tie to both entertain fans and come to a decisive end in close contests.
Fast forward to Saturday night when Anastos — now the head coach of the No. 14 MSU hockey team — was the benefactor of a once-controversial decision. Before a sellout crowd at Munn Ice Arena, senior goalie Drew Palmisano rose to the occasion in overtime to give the Spartans a 4-3 shootout win and a taste of redemption against Michigan in the back end of a home-and-home series.
“It was fun to be in the building where it was nice and packed,” Anastos said. “Good energy of this series brings that. We want that as part of our program and we expect that that’s the way it’s going to be here. I was real proud of how hard our guys competed and you know, I was real happy for (Palmisano), in particular, shutting them down in the shootout.”
A night after getting a crucial momentum-shifting first period goal for U-M, forward Chris Brown was back in action against the Spartans on Saturday. Forward Alex Guptill carried a puck and hit Brown with a pass near the top of the left circle early in the period. Brown sent a shot in on Palmisano that initially was saved, but would bounce away before being recollected and distributed to the back of the net by Brown at the 6:35 mark in the period.
But as was the case on Friday, the Spartans tied it up not long after. Junior defenseman and captain Torey Krug took a pass from sophomore forward Lee Reimer and fired a slapshot from the blue line in on U-M goalie Shawn Hunwick. The puck was deflected off a player’s stick and found it’s way over Hunwick’s shoulder to tie the game at the 13:07 mark, 1-1.
With less than five minutes to play in the first, the Spartans would take their first lead of the series. Junior forward Chris Forfar netted a goal from the right post to get past Hunwick and give MSU the 2-1 advantage.
The Wolverines tied it up in the second period with a goal by Luke Moffatt at 10:24. Sloppy Spartan defense in front of the net would allow Moffatt to skate in and put a backhander past Palmisano to knot the game, 2-2.
Late in the third period, U-M broke the tie with a goal by David Wohlberg. After a shot from Guptill was denied by Palmisano, Wohlberg collected the rebound and send a shot to the back of the net to put the Wolverines on top, 3-2.
The Spartans would answer back with a goal by Reimer at 16:07 to again tie the game and force overtime.
After a scoreless overtime session — in large part due to eight saves in the session by Palmisano — the game would come down to a shootout. In an effort to put the pressure on U-M, the Spartans elected to shoot first.
Senior forward Brett Perlini missed on his attempt but freshman forward Matt Berry put the Spartans up in the shootout with a deke maneuver around Hunwick. On the other end, Palmisano made strong saves against Wohlberg and Brown to bring it down to the last shooter. Although sophomore forward Greg Wolfe couldn’t find the net, Palmisano shut down AJ Treais to the jubilant eruption of Munn Ice Arena.
“The Michigan State-Michigan rivalry is the biggest in college hockey,” Palmisano said. “It always feels good to beat these guys at home.”
The team will have a 16-day break before returning to East Lansing on Dec. 26 to prepare for the Great Lakes Invitational (Dec. 29-30 in Detroit). The Spartans head into their break with a record of 10-6-2 in the first half of the season , including being 6-5-1-1 in CCHA play with major wins against Minnesota, Western Michigan, Northern Michigan and now U-M.
With the series against their biggest rival over, the Spartans look ahead for a chance to catch their breath before returning to action later in the month.
“We did a good job of containing Michigan,” Krug said. “There’s a lot of fun playing them. Obviously with the rivalry, there’s a lot of emotions going around so it’s good to get the extra point in the shootout and it’s a good first half (of the season).”