Hockey is a weird game, and that showed Saturday evening.
After losing 9-0 to No. 9 Michigan on Friday, Michigan State bounced back and secured a 3-2 victory over the Wolverines in dramatic fashion at Munn Ice Arena, scoring two goals in the final two minutes.
Michigan State started off the game with energy, something they didn’t have much of all game in yesterday’s loss. Tommy Apap returned to the lineup after missing the last two games, and his presence made an immediate impact as he won the opening faceoff, which was followed by a roar of enthusiasm from the MSU bench.
Then, 54 seconds later, the energy turned into results as the Spartans found themselves quickly up 1-0 on a goal from Charlie Combs, his fourth of the year.
Five minutes later, MSU went to the powerplay in what looked like a start that could not have been much better.
However, MSU generated just two shots on goal during the main advantage, and 30 seconds later the Wolverines answered on a goal by Johnny Beecher, tying the game at 1-1.
The Spartans were given a good chance to break the tie as the first period wound down when Michigan’s Keaton Pehrson received a five minute major penalty and game misconduct for a hit to the head of MSU’s Kyle Haskins. With a man advantage for the final 1:11 of the first period and the first 3:49 of the second period, the struggle of the MSU powerplay continued with only three shots on goal during the five minute span.
As the third period started, the ice looked to be tilted against the Spartans. Halfway through the third, MSU had put up one shot on goal against Michigan starting goaltender Strauss Mann. With less than five minutes to go, Michigan took a 2-1 lead when Johnny Beecher cleaned up a rebound on a wraparound try by Cam York.
The go ahead goal by Beecher ended up sparking a fire in the Spartans that they showed in the beginning of the first period, but lost in the second and third period.
“It was kind of just a switch that flipped for us," junior defenseman Cole Krygier said. "Guys kind of just put their heads down and were like this is going to happen tonight."
The Spartans flipped the switch, and it made a difference. With just over two minutes to go it was Krygier who unleashed a slapshot to tie the game.
MSU was not done though as they looked to steal three points from the Wolverines. With less than a minute to play and both teams wanting to get the win over their in-state foes, it was center Josh Nodler who would be the hero for the victorious green and white.
“There was a good drive to the net, and it popped out to Christian (Krygier) and he did a good job of selling the shot, moved it over to me and I just had to put it on net,” Nodler said. “It was a great play by him and overall great team play too.”
Michigan State Head Coach Danton Cole, who tends not to show loads of emotion, said even in moments like tonight it is easy to get excited after a dramatic win like this.
“People that don’t get carried away should be carried away," Cole said. "If you can get mad last night when you get your a-- kicked, you better be able to enjoy it and we will. I will have a nice little glass of wine tonight and enjoy that."
Drew DeRidder, who got the start in net after being pulled in the first period Friday night, had a bounce back performance with 38 saves while allowing two goals.
One of the biggest differences though was the return of Apap, who had missed the last two games. While going 12-of-19 in the faceoff circle, him simply being on the ice meant good things for MSU.
“He’s an inspirational guy," Cole said. "Having him come back even if he was just sitting on the bench dressed I think he would have brought a lot to the game tonight. He is that important to us."
MSU will look to ride the momentum of Saturday’s dramatic victory as they will be back in action next weekend. They will travel to take on Penn State on Friday and Saturday.
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