No. 15 Michigan State pushed itself to the limit, but ultimately couldn't dig out of a 3-0 hole in the first period, falling to No. 5 Michigan 4-2 in East Lansing.
A hellacious second period resulted in three ejections: two for Michigan and one for Michigan State. It certainly pumped up the crowd, which left Munn Ice Arena disappointed after the final regular season home game.
The Spartans had two golden scoring chances in the first 39 seconds of the game when Michigan star sophomore defenseman Luke Hughes inexplicably turned the puck over twice in his own zone. Freshman defenseman Matt Basgall and freshman forward Karsen Dorwart tested junior goaltender Erik Portillo, but couldn't get on the board early.
A few minutes later, Michigan opened the scoring with a blitz of three goals in eight minutes, two of which came on the first three shots on net. Sophomore forward Mackie Samoskevich scored first on a one-timer in-close on a high-IQ feed from the corner by freshman forward T.J. Hughes. Then sophomore forward Tanner Kelly took a holding penalty four minutes later and Michigan star forward Adam Fantilli – who missed the last series against MSU – made an early mark on the series with a snipe from the high slot.
The Wolverines then made it 3-0 at 11:23 on a cross-ice one-timer from freshman forward Gavin Brindley that just snuck past an outstretched graduate student transfer goaltenderDylan St. Cyr.
Michigan State appeared to get its first goal of the night in the waning moments of the period on a shot from freshman defenseman Viktor Hurtig. It was quickly waived off however for goaltender interference when graduate student forward Miroslav Mucha made contact with Portillo.
The second period was littered with penalties on both benches, with all hell breaking loose at 14:50 on a massive fight behind the Michigan State net. Fantilli drew what would’ve been a Wolverine power play, but after the whistle laid a massive cross-check to the back of junior defenseman Nash Nienhuis. The two of them tangled, delivering haymaker after haymaker, while the other eight skaters all fought too.
In the end, Fantilli and Nienhuis were given game misconducts, and Kelly and Hughes were assessed fighting minors. Michigan sophomore forward Ethan Edwards also was called for a major penalty of his own earlier in the period when he delivered a vicious hit to the head of Basgall. By the end of the period, 17 penalties were committed by the two foes, totaling an out-of-this-world 67 penalty minutes.
It was Michigan State though that prevailed from the middle period, cutting the lead to 3-1 early on an even strength goal from freshman forward Tiernan Shoudy on a smooth feed from Mucha.
The Spartans wasted little time to cut the lead to one goal in the third period when Michigan was caught with too many men on the ice. Crisp passing resulted in a tic-tac-toe goal from senior forward Nicolas Müller, his third goal in as many games.
The Spartans continued to put pressure on Portillo, but couldn’t get the finishing touch on the puck. Graduate student defenseman Michael Underwood took his turn in the penalty box at 13:12 on a slashing minor, and MSU killed it off to keep the hope alive.
St. Cyr was pulled from his net with under two minutes to play, but the Wolverines put the icing on the cake just a few seconds after on an empty-netter from Brindley.
Two more players were assessed game misconducts to pile on during a post-whistle skirmish: sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi for fighting and fifth-year defenseman Cole Krygier for abuse of an official.
St. Cyr made 24 saves to Portillo's 30.
The two rivals will go back at it Saturday night at Little Caeser's Arena in Detroit for the series finale.
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