Friday, April 12, 2024

Rocky third period causes MSU hockey 5-2 loss against Michigan in hopes of a Frozen Four appearance

April 1, 2024
<p>Sophomore forward Joey Larson beats the opponent to the puck, and is able to keep it in the Wolverines' end in the NCAA Regional tournament against Michigan at Centene Ice Center on March 31, 2024.</p>

Sophomore forward Joey Larson beats the opponent to the puck, and is able to keep it in the Wolverines' end in the NCAA Regional tournament against Michigan at Centene Ice Center on March 31, 2024.

Photo by Emily Martin | The State News

In a fight to the finish, the Michigan State men's hockey team made a historic season run that it had been hunting for the past two seasons under head coach Adam Nightingale.

Making it as far as they had, the Spartans' season had to come to a stop somewhere, and that would be against Michigan State's in-state rival, the University of Michigan, where the Spartans were taken down in Maryland Heights, Missouri with a final score of 5-2.

The Spartans came out on a hot start as they led 1-0 after the first period, playing dominant defense and helping freshman netminder Trey Augustine keep pucks from getting behind him. 

But, the third and final period was when MSU ran out of momentum and couldn't come back, ultimately ending its season.

Michigan scored four goals in the third period to eventually take the victory, scoring more goals than there were from either team in the first two periods combined.

"I'll be the first one to tell you, I didn’t make a good enough play on either of those goals, so I take responsibility for those," sophomore defenseman Matt Basgall said. "It was a tough read for me on the first one ... I’m cutting down the middle, I slowed my feet down and gave him the wide lane and he took it. It's a team game, but I think I can do better on those plays."

The Spartans started strong, quickly stopped Michigan connections and held their own as they battled in corners and were able to keep the Wolverines out of the net. However, leaving the second period tied at 1-1 ended up in the favor of the Wolverines. In the third period, Michigan State also wasn't able to get many shots by Michigan's goalie, something Basgall gave a lot of credit to post-game. 

"I thought their goalie played well, I thought we had some really good looks, especially in the second (period) there," Basgall said. "Their goalie looked really good, and credit to him. I don’t think he's got the credit (for) how he's played in the series. I thought we generated enough to score (but) it’s about finishing it at that point."

The third period was the turning point, but just halfway through the third period, the shift was seen. The Wolverines put two goals on the board in the matter of 12 seconds, snapping the Spartans' confidence and turning it all towards the Maize and Blue; this game was now completely in Michigan's control.

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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.

"We got some great hardware and unfortunately fell short here," Basgall said. "This is the most important thing in our season. This is the goal that we worked to all season, some great accolades that we went and got on the way, but it’s going to be a continued year of work to get back here."

While the game ended with a Michigan State loss, the team and coaches said the work they have put in this season is just the beginning of what can be a continuous success for the Spartans for years to come.

"You win with class and you lose with class, and I thought the guys finished the game in that type of environment really well," Nightingale said. "That’s important with what we're trying to do. We're still trying to lay a foundation and build a program here, and those are key ingredients for what I value as a program."

Michigan State's season, in which the Spartans clinched their first Big Ten regular season title, first Big Ten tournament title and made it to the regional finals of the Frozen Four tournament, has officially come to an end. Michigan State will be back in action in October, looking to pick up where the team left off.

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