In the Battle for the Big Bear Trophy, MSU edged Michigan 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium. The game was evenly challenged throughout, with the two teams nearly identical in their attacking position and efforts at goal, but MSU exuded the necessary composure both offensively and defensively in the definitive moments.
MSU struck quickly and quietly, as their first deep positioning translated to a goal. Off of senior defender Dewey Lewis's throw-in, junior defender Jimmy Fiscus leapt the highest and won the header, flicking it on further and to junior midfielder Brad Centala. Centala made no mistakes and blasted the ball into the back of the net from short distance.
As the first half progressed, however, so did Michigan up the field. Although the Wolverines went without scoring, they assumed the offensive role and relegated MSU to defense.
The final chance came off of a Michigan cross sent in from redshirt junior winger Michael Kapitula, whose pass found an uncontested Robbie Mertz in the middle of the box. Mertz’s header was directed cleanly but traveled straight towards MSU keeper Jimmy Hague, who made a rudimentary save.
The two teams entered the half having attempted eight shots apiece, but with MSU having displayed the expert instinct to take the lead 1-0.
The second half started as an inverse reflection of the first, with Mertz sending in a spicy cross to Kapitula only for the effort to again pitch straight into the hands of Hague.
MSU also had a good chance in the 55th minute, when Ken Krolicki lofted a featherweight pass to Centala on the back post. Centala, with an opportunity for his second goal of the match, misjudged his header and the redirect flew high, the close-quarters shot complicated by a thundering Evan Louro, the goalkeeper for Michigan.
For the remainder of the half, the game largely dissolved into a midfield duel of alternating possession until the 81st minute, when Michigan’s point-leader, Francis Atuahene, was slipped through clean on goal. Hague responsively traversed out and slid for the ball as Atuahene poked the ball towards goal. Hague won the potentially game-changing encounter, saving the ball and the game for the Spartans.
The final opportunity fell to Michigan senior defenseman Lars Eckenrode, who in the last minute volleyed a juggled effort hard and high over goal, a moment of drama that nearly extended the game to extra time.
MSU extended its advantage in the series to 31-8-6, truncating the two-win streak that Michigan had. Next up for MSU is an away game against Maryland, one of the best teams in the Big Ten on Friday.
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