Thursday, February 29, 2024

FINAL: MSU 2, ASU 1, Nicolas Müller's late goal lifts Spartans over Sun Devils

February 15, 2021
<p>MSU freshman forward Kristof Papp (13) during the match against Arizona State on Feb. 15, 2021. </p>

MSU freshman forward Kristof Papp (13) during the match against Arizona State on Feb. 15, 2021.

Photo by Jillian Felton | The State News

It sure seems like every time Michigan State and Arizona State meet, it ends up being a clunky yet intense matchup.

That was true again Monday night as the two teams went to battle.

Michigan State sophomore forward Nicolas Müller was the hero scoring the game-winner for the MSU hockey team in a 2-1 victory over Arizona State at Munn Ice Arena.

Perhaps frustrated after a wild, heartbreaking loss Sunday, Michigan State came out with a chip on their shoulder in the first period Monday.

And with a late 1-1 tie, Müller scored with 3:57 to play in the game as MSU redeemed themselves following a heartbreaker the day before.

The Spartans had two power plays in the first 20 minutes, the first a holding the stick penalty on ASU defender Jack Judson and the second on forward Demetrios Koumontzis. MSU did not score on the first power-play but found their charm one second after the second power-play expired on a goal from sophomore forward Jagger Joshua, who was camping in front of ASU starting goaltender Cole Brady and able to clean it up.

It was not technically a power-play goal but certainly should count as one with the effort to set it up as Koumontzis was barely even out of the box.

The Spartans continued the pressure for the final four minutes of the period, finishing the first period outshooting Arizona State, 10-2.

However, the second period was a complete flip-flop in favor of the visiting Sun Devils as they outshot MSU 15-5 in the middle 20 minutes. Starting goaltender Drew DeRidder stood strong in the net though making multiple key saves including a complete robbery of Arizona State forward Benji Eckerle.

Three second-period penalties by the Spartans, one by senior forward Mitchell Lewandowski and two by Müller started to add up, and on the third power-play, Koumontzis put ASU on the board to tie the game at one apiece.

Then in the third period, the Spartans were yet again outperformed for the majority of it with Arizona State putting lots of pressure on DeRidder.

It was not until under four minutes to play for Müller to break the tie on a controversial goal.

Joshua took the puck to the net but was unable to score. Müller, his fellow centerman, was right behind him and was able to force the puck in between the poles.

Arizona State was adamant that the goal should have been disallowed with Müller making contact with Brady. But after a long review by the officials, they determined it was a good goal, and the Spartans took the lead for good.

“I was kind of worried because some of the guys already told me the first one already went in,” Müller said after the win. “... It also took a while. I was really relieved when they called it a goal.”

Müller also said he indeed felt a push in the back on his way into the net which caused the review.

The MSU second line of Joshua, Müller and Lewandowski was buzzing not just Monday, but Sunday too. The trio was wreaking havoc on the ASU defense for the entire series.

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“They have been my favorite two to play with so far,” Joshua said. “Just the way they understand the game and those small areas of getting pucks in areas for me to go get is something that I appreciate. It is never bad playing with two guys like that who have skill and can make plays on their own.”

With an assist on Müller's game-winner, Lewandowski is now just one point away from reaching the 100 point mark.

DeRidder was also potent in net Monday, making 32 stops to keep the Spartans in the game.

The win for Michigan State snaps a three-game losing streak. With seven games left in the regular season, MSU will look to build some momentum to improve their seeding for the Big Ten Tournament in March.

The Spartans (7-11-2) will get back at it rather quickly as they will travel to “The State of Hockey” to take on Minnesota (17-5-0) Friday and Saturday.

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