Michigan State ice hockey improved to 6-7 as they edged out a 4-3 victory against No. 14 Michigan Friday night at Munn Ice Arena.
Sophomore forward Mitchell Lewandowski had the game-winner for the Spartans. Freshman goaltender Drew DeRidder had 43 saves for MSU.
“It's been a while since I've had that many shots,” DeRidder said postgame. “It's a big game tonight, a big rivalry. It's just good to get the win. It was probably not the most technically sound game, but we found a way to battle through it and win.”
Being a rivalry matchup, one that featured 11 total penalties, the contest was as physical as anticipated from the opening faceoff.
“The emotions sometimes run real high in these games. There's that fine line, and either you control your emotions or your emotions control you,” coach Danton Cole said. “We were pretty amped up and skating around and not getting much done. So I thought they reined it in. They kept battling and made a good finish.”
Senior defenseman Zach Osburn’s crosschecking penalty just under two minutes in poised the Wolverines for an early scoring opportunity.
As Michigan controlled the puck in the offensive zone, Josh Norris rifled a shot that was deflected in front by Jake Slater and sent past DeRidder. Norris proceeded to show some emotion as he motioned toward the MSU bench and pounded his chest after the goal.
Spartan freshman defenseman Christian Krygier reciprocated the intensity toward Michigan, taking an interference penalty with a big hit along the boards. This time, the Spartans successfully killed the power play.
Jack Becker’s cross-checking penalty did not facilitate a quality chance for MSU on their own man advantage, however. DeRidder flashed his glove against Jimmy Labert’s shot, a shorthanded one that represented Michigan’s best scoring opportunity to that point and a turning point for the Spartans.
“The energy on the bench, you get it from a lot of different things, either a big hit or scoring a goal. I think blocked shots and big saves like that, (that save) was incredible,” Cole said. “He had two or three of those tonight and that's invaluable; you need those. You have to earn your wins, and he did tonight.”
With seven minutes left in the period, MSU finally began to control the puck for significant stretches. Norris took a slashing penalty just seconds after.
As chants of "Jim Harbaugh" broke out from the student section, the Spartans nodded the score at one. With just over four minutes left in the period, Sophomore winger Brody Stevens tipped junior defender Jerad Rosburg’s shot past Hayden Lavigne.
Stevens took a crosschecking penalty two minutes later, but the Spartans were able to execute their third kill of the period. The score remained 1-1 at the first intermission.
Michigan continued to control the puck for the majority of the second period’s opening minutes. Jack Becker, assisted by Joseph Cecconi, put the Wolverines back in front in under two minutes.
The physicality continued at the five-minute mark when senior winger Cody Milan committed a boarding penalty on Griffin Luce, as he himself seemed to be involved in every altercation.
After another successful kill, the Spartans would tie the game once again. Assisted by junior center Patrick Khodorenko, sophomore defenseman Tommy Miller shot from the right circle to even up the score at 2-2 at the 12-minute mark.
Despite being outshot 14-7, the Spartans would head into the third tied at 2.
Just over a minute into the final period, the Spartans would take their first lead of the game. Junior winger Taro Hirose took a shot from the point, which was deflected by Milan for the quick power play goal.
“We've been struggling lately. We just hadn't scored in a while,” Milan said of the power play unit. “But we're staying true to what we want to do and I got to the net and the guys made some nice plays and good things happen. So we got one tonight and it's definitely good to get rolling.”
The lead wouldn’t last for more than a minute, though. Nick Pastujov wristed the puck through heavy traffic in front of Deridder to tie the game 3-3.
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At the 11-minute mark, the Spartans began to take the game over, firing four shots in under a minute and sparking an energy among their fans that carried onto the ice. After four quality chances by sophomore center Tommy Apap's line, and “go green, go white” being belted from the student section, it seemed as if MSU would break through.
“It's either that or the goal is never going to come,” Cole said. “I know there's a fine line between the two, but it was a good momentum shift. I didn't think we put enough pucks on net the first couple of periods. We had chances to do it and that line went out there and did a great job.”
With just over 10 minutes to go, upon gaining the zone, Hirose found Lewandowski. The right winger's shot from the left circle deflected off Wolverine defenders and trickled between the pads of Lavigne to give MSU a 4-3 advantage.
Despite pulling Lavigne with just over a minute remaining and generating multiple scoring chances, the Wolverines were unable to score, as the Spartans held on to win.
The Spartans travel to Ann Arbor for game two of this home-and-home series Saturday at Yost Ice Arena.
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