Monday, November 29, 2021

FINAL: Michigan State manages thrilling 2-1 comeback against Miami

October 16, 2021
<p>Spartans junior forward Jagger Joshua in their hockey game against the Miami Redhawks. Michigan State earned a win in the third period, 3-1, on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. </p>

Spartans junior forward Jagger Joshua in their hockey game against the Miami Redhawks. Michigan State earned a win in the third period, 3-1, on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Michigan State (3-1) came from behind to defeat Miami (1-3) late into the third period for an exciting third straight win and first series sweep since 2019.

Sophomore right wing Jeremy Davidson and junior left wing Erik Middendorf chipped in a goal each for the Spartans grinding comeback attempt after getting thrown off their rhythm by a hard-nosed Redhawks squad.

The Redhawks outshot the Spartans 36-24 but a commanding 35 saves by senior goalie Drew DeRidder made the difference in a game that saw Michigan State’s offense shrink away in the period. His performance allowed him to be named one of the Stars of The Game along with Middendorf and Miami’s sophomore goalie Ludvig Persson.

The energy of Michigan State’s 3-1 victory over Miami on Friday was lacking from the get-go, as the Spartans generated quality chances but failed to find any margin of success, be it through passing miscues or the pressure of a burgeoning Miami defense.

With five minutes left in the first, senior right wing Matt Barry caught senior defenseman and Miami captain Derek Daschke in front of the net for a goal that made Munn sound more like a waiting room than a hockey rink, 1-0 Miami. Junior center Nicolas Muller deked it to a breaking sophomore right wing A.J. Hodges to set up their best opportunity of the period but Persson answered with a tremendous diving save out front.

The Spartans came out far more aggressive in the second period, with Muller and Hodges battering Persson with some shots right from the drop of the puck. However, Persson remained steady and composed with every attempt, making good looks begin to feel more like gambles from Michigan State's perspective.

And then there was the rest of Miami. The bold forechecking style that frustrated opponents on good nights and stampeded them on bad ones began to make its mark, forcing the Spartans to scramble for limited offensive opportunities on breakaways and haphazard rushes instead of organized offensive possessions.

Meanwhile, the Redhawks, firm in their pressing ways, flew across the ice to pepper DeRidder with the puck, dusting the Spartans into a back-and-forth rhythm that required the right touch off the stick that never came.

Minor altercations around both nets came and went throughout a decidedly chippy first two periods but it was a major game misconduct on senior defenseman Cole Krygier for spearing senior left wing Chase Gresock that opened the door for the Redhawks to extend their lead. Late in the second period, it was the most dire situation the Spartans had seen all night.

If there was a time for them to put their foot down and rise to the occasion, this had to be it.

And for what felt like an eternity in the Spartan zone, they answered. The success of the unit is almost scripted at this point: Senior defenseman Dennis Cesana diving to cover the open corner of the goal early in the shorthanded stand. Freshman defenseman David Gucciardi blocking shots and scrambling for the puck upon success. DeRidder methodically squaring up at even the hint of trouble coming his way.

Roars of satisfaction from Munn’s crowd after Michigan State knocked the puck down to the other end of the ice only grew after every instance of survival. As the buzzer sounded on the second period, only eight seconds remained on Miami’s power play and yet it was a foregone conclusion that the Spartans had already notched their first big win of the night and all the momentum to go with it.

Whether they could get another would be decided in the third period.

Less than a minute and a half into the third, fifth year left wing Mitchell Lewandowski sent the puck to a rushing sophomore center Kristof Papp. Papp beat out the defense to the goal, circled around with the puck at the right corner of the net and it over to Friday’s hero, Davidson.

Davidson caught the puck and sent it into the net with the most confident shot any Spartan had all night to tie it 1-1, his third goal of the season. After being dragged up and down the ice by a dictating Miami squad for much of the game, Michigan State was finally back in the driver’s seat.

The Redhawks continued to play the hits and scrounge for possession at any and all times but subsequent Spartan possessions were far crisper, without the weaker passing that had stunted them all game. DeRidder tightened up, weathering shot after shot from Miami’s left wings, including a one-on-one dime from sophomore Matthew Barbolini and catching a slapshot from junior Joe Cassetti like it was a routine pop fly.

The offense settled, the defense ravaged and a wall sprung up net for the Spartans. All Michigan State needed to cap off the comeback was one in the net to hold to force a turnaround win.

In the final minutes, it could have been Muller, his shot veering wide and staying within Michigan State’s possession. Or freshman Gucciardi, sending one into Miami’s pipe with a ping that echoed through Munn over the groans of a delirious crowd.

But it was junior right wing Griffin Loughran on the rebound who reached junior center Josh Nodler for a lightning quick pass to junior left wing Erik Middendorf deep in the Miami zone. In a game of moments, this one didn’t merely unfold: It exploded across the ice.

Middendorf timed the puck perfectly, slapping it into the right corner of the net beyond a beaten Persson. It was a jump-out-of-your-seat gem of a combination of pass and shot that electrifies at any level and any instance.

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For the Spartans, it just happened to be at the most important time.

2-1 MSU with two minutes to go, Miami wagered one final drive into the Spartan zone. Seconds flew by in a manic frenzy as DeRidder scrambled back and forth in net to answer attack and attack while Cesana and Lewandowski blocked a few shots of their own.

And as time expired, it was a feeling of excitement, not relief that took Munn by storm. Excitement over the result, the team, the effort-and maybe something new here in East Lansing.

The Spartans hit the road for next weekend's series against UMass Lowell. Puck drop is at 7:15 p.m. on Friday.

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