Physical Wolverines fight back to split series, win at Joe Louis Arena
Two completely different MSU hockey teams took the ice this weekend against No. 1 Michigan.
There were the Friday Spartans, who dominated the game in both scoring and defending, hit hard, played extremely physical, squashing the Wolverines 5-2 at Munn Ice Arena.
“To me, it was intense and physical without being dirty, and I think that’s important,” MSU head coach Rick Comley said.
“I think college hockey has had more than its share of messes this year, and we certainly don’t need that. But these teams were competing and battling right up to the final buzzer.”
MSU tallied an early first-period goal thanks to freshman defenseman Jeff Petry, who beat U-M goaltender Billy Sauer’s glove side.
Junior forward Tim Crowder would score for the Spartans again with a minute left in the period, putting MSU up by two goals at the end of the first.
The Spartans would go on to score three more goals in the third period alone, with two of those coming in an 18-second time span by junior forwards Justin Abdelkader and Tim Kennedy.
The Wolverines would not take the loss lightly, Abdelkader accurately predicted.
“It’s huge, they’re going to come out right away,” he said. “When we play Michigan, the intensity always rises. It’s physical. It’s just one of those things. (They’re) going to come back better.”
And they did.
Then there were the Saturday Spartans, who couldn’t seem to set up any type of offense, were sloppy with the puck and weren’t finishing their hits at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
It cost them a 5-2 loss to the Wolverines and a split in the weekend series.
U-M forward Tim Miller would score on a rebound shot from defenseman Chris Summers to put the Wolverines on the board first.
Wolverines forward Aaron Palushaj capitalized on a sloppy Spartans’ play after MSU left the puck out in front of the net and put U-M up by two goals.
With just under 20 seconds left in the first period, forward Brandon Naurato would give the Wolverines a three goal lead heading into the locker room.
“Obviously (3-0) was a big hole,” Comley said.
“I thought they came out and were quick and physical, and they were much better than us in the first period. To our credit, though, we fought back and made it a hockey game.”
Despite losing forward Chad Kolarik, the Wolverine’s second leading scorer to a hamstring injury against Lake Superior, U-M fared well against the Spartans, who would tally their first goal almost halfway through the second period from senior forward Chris Mueller.
Kennedy would score on the power play from Petry’s shot, shortly after Mueller’s goal, redirecting it past Sauer.
It seemed as though the momentum pendulum had swung in MSU’s favor, and the Spartans were only down by one, with a score of 3-2.
But forward Max Pacioretty would again steal the spotlight for the Wolverines as he tipped a shot past junior goaltender Jeff Lerg and gave U-M a two-goal lead heading into the locker room at the end of the second.
Miller would score an empty-net goal as Lerg was pulled to allow the Spartans an extra attacker.
But the Wolverines would prevail.
U-M head coach Red Berenson, who coached his 1,000th game this weekend, said his team used Friday’s disappointment to rally together for Saturday’s game.
“As a result, we were rewarded,” Berenson said.
“Now I feel better about our team and about everything. (Friday’s) game was a real downer for me as a coach.”
The No. 6 Spartans head back for a 7:05 p.m. Friday game at Munn Ice Arena against Bowling Green and will travel to Ohio for Saturday’s game against the Falcons.