With the final rivalry weekend of the season underway for the Michigan State hockey team, the Spartans finished night one of a two-game series with an absolutely dominant 5-1 win over the Michigan Wolverines. One goal came in the second period and four more — two of them being empty net goals — came in the third period.
Emotions consistently run high for both teams during these Michigan State-Michigan games, but the Spartans kept their emotions under wrap tonight, especially being shown through penalty minutes. The only penalty taken for the Spartans through the entire 60 minutes was from graduate forward Reed Lebster on a slashing call.
“I think a little bit is with the first game of the series they’re getting asked about it all week,” head coach Adam Nightingale said post-game. “A really important thing for us is respecting who you play, but not let that boil over.”
The fourth line for the team, consisting of sophomore forward Tiernan Shoudy, junior forward Tanner Kelly and freshman forward Tommi Männistö were given great credit for their game time performance. As the starting line for the night, the three went up against the top line for Michigan and were able to control their emotions, even after conceding a goal and going down 1-0.
“(Kelly) lost his cool and took some penalties and you have to use that emotion in the right way,” Nightingale said. “He got back in and I’m proud of him tonight. Right after they score he’s in that spot again… but he used his emotion in the right way… that line has been really good for us.”
Kelly had the first goal of the night for the Spartans. The Wolverines were the first to land on the board, their lone goal coming from Gavin Brindley, a top forward for the team. But just 25 seconds after the goal from Brindley was scored, the Spartans immediately answered with a game tying goal, and it was only up from there.
As well as the dominance shown in both offensive and defensive zone, the Spartans lived up to their mantra of playing the full 60 minutes that the team and coaches harp about and were able to block shots and break up passes to create more scoring opportunities.
Nightingale said that he is thankful for the alumni of Michigan State and how the crowd continues to show out the way they do and help play a huge role in their continuing season, even in an away game like tonight.
“What I think I’m most excited about is our alumni," Nightingale said. "It’s a proud alumni group and I want to make sure they walk into a rink and they’re proud to be a Spartan. The support we get from our alums I’m super thankful for. We still have a long way to go and we’re headed in the right direction and it’s exciting, but we just have to focus on one game at a time.”
The Spartans hope to continue their dominant play, as well as the confidence in their play, as they head to Detroit for the Duel in the D match at Little Caesars Arena for night two of the series. Nightingale touched yet again on the “Spartan way" and to make sure the team is playing with their identity and living up to be the best they can be.
“In the third (period) I thought we did a lot of really good things there and played to our identity,” Nightingale said. “Obviously (Michigan) had some good looks, but Trey (Augustine) played well and I think that’s part of it…I think it’ll make for a great game tomorrow.”
The Spartans will be back in action on Saturday, Feb. 10 for a puck drop at 8:30 p.m. in Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The game will be streamed on Big Ten Network.