Friday, April 12, 2024

MSU hockey falls to Michigan 5-2 in regional finals of NCAA Championships, season comes to an end

March 31, 2024
<p>Sophomore forward No. 18 Joey Larson and junior forward No. 21 Red Savage keep the puck in play in the NCAA Regional game against the University of Michigan at Centene Ice Center on March 31, 2024.</p>

Sophomore forward No. 18 Joey Larson and junior forward No. 21 Red Savage keep the puck in play in the NCAA Regional game against the University of Michigan at Centene Ice Center on March 31, 2024.

Photo by Emily Martin | The State News

One final shot.

The third round of the NCAA Championships was on the line for the Michigan State men's hockey team as they had the chance to take on their in-state rival, the University of Michigan Wolverines, for the sixth time in one season and take a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota.

However, after the Spartans played tough in the first period with an extremely strong start, the Wolverines took over the third period and Michigan State took a heartbreaking 5-2 loss, ending its season.

In such a high-stakes game, the emotions took off quickly for the heated rivalry as both teams swarmed each other on the ice in an effort to keep one another from landing a goal.

There was no telling which team came out more dominantly to begin, but the first team to the man advantage was the Spartans after a hooking call was made on the Wolverines. However, the opponents seemed to stay closely on top of MSU through the whole man advantage. But the pressure from the Wolverines was no stop as sophomore defenseman Matt Basgall shot a puck at the net which was tipped in by freshman forward Gavin O'Connell to give Michigan State an early 1-0 lead. 

With the ramping emotions, both teams ended up having a man in each box for roughing, which was quickly followed by senior defenseman Nash Nienhuis heading to the box for elbowing, as the Spartans had to play 4-on-3 hockey for 75 seconds, and then finish off a 5-on-4 penalty kill as well. The Spartans fought tooth and nail, along with support from freshman netminder Trey Augustine making incredible saves, to kill off both penalties.

MSU was able to get between passes and break up fast breaks of the Wolverines as the Spartans worked to prevent the Wolverines from lighting the lamp.

The Spartans took another penalty with just 22 seconds to go in the first period, allowing the Wolverines' top-ranked power play to shine and give them that man advantage chance as well as carrying that into the first minute-and-a-half of the second period. But, the Wolverines could not get the puck out in front of them long enough to take a shot at Augustine.

But just five minutes into the second period, the Wolverines got their shot into the back of the net to tie the game 1-1. MSU, however, knew what needed to happen to earn that lead back.

Michigan State was able to quickly land itself a penalty kill — immediately after the goal — after a boarding call was made on freshman defenseman Maxim Štrbák, but the special teams continued to shine for the Green and White.

And just quickly after the penalty kill, a holding call was made on the Wolverines and gave MSU a man advantage. During its opportunity to shine, the Spartans were not able to capitalize on the opportunity. 

The Spartans ended the second period in the same fashion as the first period after a roughing penalty was called on freshman defenseman Artyom Levshunov. The Wolverines' power play could not capitalize in the first minute, leaving them one more minute at the beginning of the final period to attempt to get ahead. However, the Spartans were able to get stops and keep the Wolverines from scoring; the score was still 1-1.

With just 13 minutes left of action in the game, the Wolverines took a 2-1 lead, giving them the confidence to go on with the game and continue on a lead that the Spartans were looking to yank from them yet again.

The Spartans, just halfway through the final period, got another crack at a power play after a boarding call was made on the Wolverines. The hungry Spartans were able to take the opportunity and tie the game off of a goal from sophomore forward Joey Larson, which was assisted by graduate forward Nicolas Müller

Soon after, Michigan broke the tie with a quick goal, and just seconds later ended up taking a two-goal lead on top of the Spartans with just five minutes left to finish the game. The Wolverines now had a 4-2 lead. 

With four minutes left to play in the final period, the Spartans quickly pulled their goalie in hopes of tying up the game, but even with the attempt of pulling Augustine for the extra attacker, Michigan State ended up down a man on a slashing penalty. With this, the Wolverines quickly capitalized and scored to make the score 5-2. Michigan State lost the game 5-2 to the Wolverines.

With the loss to the Wolverines, Michigan State's run in the tournament comes to an end in the Maryland Heights regional final. The Spartans will now look forward to next season, in hopes of regrouping and building off of this season.

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