Michigan State (2-1) bested Miami (1-2) in an exciting, hard-fought affair that came down to the final minutes and a late surge from the Spartans.
Sophomore right wing Jeremy Davidson came up big for the Spartans with two goals off the stick of senior defenseman Dennis Cesana and sophomore goaltender Pierce Charleson had another strong outing between the pipes, allowing only one goal for the second consecutive game.
While the Redhawks outshot the Spartans 29 to 28 and decidedly won face-offs 36 to 30, the Spartans' penalty kill skills shone, with a perfect 4-4 performance. Davidson, Cesana and Charleson all earned Stars of the Games honors for their contributions to Michigan State's win.
From the first puck drop, one could only think how Michigan State Head Coach Danton Cole described Miami’s style of play on Monday: extremely hard and physical with a demanding forecheck that could throw any game off balance if the other side weren't up for it.
It was tense in the early going as the Redhawks lived up to their billing, flying around and racking up shots on net. Michigan State answered gamely to every advance into their zone and certainly advanced enough on their own, but with each Miami scramble to regain possession, it wasn’t hard to see pressure mount as time went on.
Momentum swung back and forth until Miami senior center Monte Graham was sent off the ice after a hooking call, and the Spartans had their first power play of the game. Miami had consistent disruptions throughout, including a Cesana shot batted off Miami senior left wing Chase Gresock and over to fifth-year left wing Mitchell Lewandowski, who quickly scuffed it on the turn to an uncovered Davidson.
Davidson graciously accepted the puck and slapped the one-timer right into the back of the net. 1-0 MSU and a credit to the old adage: sometimes the best plays are broken plays.
In the second period, the Spartans had plenty of opportunities to extend their lead. Sophomore center Kristof Papp had a clean look early, but the puck seemingly slipped away from his shot. Davidson took another hard stroke from the middle of the Miami zone, and the puck lamely bounced into sophomore goalie Ludvig Persson’s glove. Papp got beat back to the boards again by sophomore defenseman Robby Drazner, whiffing again on another chance to strike the puck into the edge of an open net.
Neither team developed much of a foothold in either zone, and the tense atmosphere before Davidson’s lead-taker returned with an added air of chippiness on both sides. By the time the Munn Ice Crew came out to scrape the rink, with a little under nine minutes left in the period, the Spartans watched Miami from their bench, looking exhausted but steady.
If there ever were a time for urgency, it was now.
Following the intermission, both teams exploded right out the gates, taking a quick trip to the Miami zone and back into the heart of Michigan State zone with sophomore center Thomas Daskas finding a streaking junior left wing Joe Cassetti on the right side of MSU’s zone.
On the move, Cassetti didn't have the cleanest look or the best angle. But, his on-target shot caught Charleson off guard enough for Miami to tie it up, 1-1 in a brand new match.
Michigan State emerged after with another strong Miami penalty kill following an interference call against Spartan senior defenseman Cole Krygier, slowing the tempo and creating indecision before Miami chipped it at a ready Charleson. Once back at full strength, the Spartans continued to pile shots on Persson, answering a suddenly knotted game with the clear-cut urgency that had escaped them moments before.
Graham was sent to the penalty box for hooking with 1:33 left in the second period, and the Spartans had the chance they’d been waiting for. Lewandowski almost had it, his shot going a touch too wide, and, yet, the horn sounded before Michigan State could rebound the puck and get one final shot off.
Still tied at the beginning of the third period, Cesana opened up the remaining 47 seconds of Michigan State’s power play by taking the puck off Gresock in the Spartan zone and kicking it to Davidson, who raced down the line and looked for the best pass. Cheers swayed around the arena as Lewandowski fired a close shot on target, and Cesana found the puck to wrap one around the edge of the goal.
Neither converted. Time was still running out as Miami’s forechecking led to the longest period of time they’d spent in Michigan State’s zone, and that nervous feeling began to sweep over the Munn crowd again.
With a little under 12 minutes to go, Papp, who had struggled to get his shot in the right spot all game, finally got the puck to the crease underneath Persson and between the pipes to break the tie.
At least, that’s what it looked like deep in Miami’s zone. But, behind Papp, senior defenseman Christian Krygier got whistled for interference, and the draw remained in place, much to the disdain of the Munnsters.
However elated they may have been by the continued chance to play for the lead, Miami got a taste of their own medicine less than a minute later after a surefire goal was immediately disallowed by the refereeing crew. The desperation was palpable among both sides. Whoever could maintain their composure would surely have a shot to win in what was becoming an organized frenzy of a game.
Michigan State pulled out one final penalty kill and began to press back into Miami’s zone. Cesana got the puck off Davidson and skated behind the net, coming up to the left pipe where he tried to score earlier in the period. But, he hesitated and sent it back to an alert Davidson in the middle of the zone.
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Davidson reached back and sent it into the net, 2-1 MSU, for his second goal of the game in a finally uneven game that brought Munn to a fever pitch.
Miami scrambled in the final three minutes, pulling Persson for one final dive into Michigan State’s zone, but junior left wing Jagger Joshua stiff-armed his way down the ice and put the cap on a thrilling, hard-fought game with a clean empty-netter, 3-1.
Michigan State looks to make it two-straight against Miami on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on BTN +.
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