Potential sweep halted by wayward puck
With less than two minutes to go in Saturday’s game, the MSU hockey team’s dream of sweeping No. 1 Michigan was accidentally crushed by its own hands.
After a scuffle in front of the net, junior forward Matt Schepke attempted to clear the puck.
Instead, it went off from his glove and over the left shoulder of junior goaltender Jeff Lerg.
A possible missed cross-checking or interference call on U-M happened immediately before the tying U-M goal, which made MSU head coach Rick Comley livid after the whistle.
“Obviously, (Michael) Ratchuk was cross-checked from behind, and there should have been a penalty, and they didn’t see it,” Comley said. “They can’t make a call if they didn’t see it.
“Then we knocked it in our net … It leaves a bad taste in our mouth.”
And the team isn’t pointing any fingers when it comes to losing one point on the weekend, Comley added.
“I’m not saying it’s Matt’s (Schepke) fault by any means,” he said. “You’re frustrated it happened that way, but you just have to deal with it.”
However, U-M head coach Red Berenson said the officiating was disappointing throughout the entire weekend.
“It’s all interpretation,” Berenson said. “It’s a physical series. What’s a penalty and what’s not a penalty is a matter of interpretation. We were not playing stupid. We were playing hard, and we were playing rough. And they were as well. So it was not a boy’s game?- it was a man’s game.”
U-M picked up the first goal of the game in the second period, quieting the thunderous sea of green and white Spartans fans.
But about six minutes later, senior defenseman Daniel Vukovic would tally the tying goal.
Junior forward Tim Crowder would score again for the Spartans – just 46 seconds later.
Despite tying Saturday’s game, the Spartans walk away from the two-game weekend series with three of the four needed points.
On Friday, MSU defeated the Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena, 1-0. The last time U-M was shutout at Yost was Feb. 28, 2003, against the Spartans.
The shutout was Lerg’s first of the year.
“Three out of four (points) against the No. 1 team in the nation shows how we can play with anyone,” Vukovic said. “But we still have to improve.
“A championship team wins those games.”
But the team knows its abilities and knows what it needs to do to be successful, he added.
“We know what we’re made of,” Vukovic said. “We knew we had to prove it to people. It’s a huge part of rankings down the road. We have to prove we can beat the top teams, and if we don’t do that, we won’t be where we want to (be) at the end of the season.”
Senior captain Bryan Lerg said the tie “sort of felt like a loss.”
“If we played here Friday night and tied and then played there (Saturday) and won, it’d be a whole different feeling,” Lerg said. “We had chances and we just couldn’t bury them.
“We took a step this weekend and we proved we can play with the top teams in the nation. That’s a game we shouldn’t have let slip away, but we let it slip away … We gave it a lot of effort, but it’s sort of a sad three points.”
MSU takes on Nebraska-Omaha at Munn Ice Arena for the next two-game weekend series. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. Friday.