MSU’s losing streak reaches nine games, blasted by No. 4 Michigan 6-2


MSU head coach Danton Cole shouts out coaching instructions during a game/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Cameron McClarren, Hockey Beat Reporter

ANN ARBOR, Mich — Michigan State junior forward Erik Middendorf had a two-on-one opportunity that was saved by Michigan goaltender Eric Portillo with 17 minutes remaining in the second period. It was perhaps the most paramount shot that Portillo saved in the second frame as the No. 4 Wolverines used a four-goal second period to beat MSU 6-2.

“We did some things and shot ourselves in the foot,” coach Danton Cole said. “We didn’t kill penalties very well and we had some bad changes that led to a couple of things. Mentally, we have to be better in a game like this.”

MSU head coach Danton Cole watches his team from the bench in the Spartans’ 5-1 win over Air Force on Oct. 9, 2021/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

With the loss, the Spartans’ losing and pointless streak was extended to nine. MSU is now 11-17-1 on the season and 5-14-1 in Big Ten play, the worst mark in the conference.

The opening stages of the game were a relatively even affair as both teams took their time to gain their footing. Then, Michigan State went on the power-play.

Michigan forward Mark Estapa went to the box for elbowing with 8:35 left in the first, but the Spartans were unable to generate any pressure on the power-play and even gave up a high-quality chance to Wolverine forward Jimmy Lambert who hit the left post after the penalty expired.

From then on, it was all Michigan.

Just 35 seconds later, the Wolverines scored the opening goal off of a three-on-two rush after MSU turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Senior Michael Pastujov received a feed in the slot from defenseman Jacob Truscott and fired it towards Spartan goaltender Drew DeRidder. Though the initial shot was saved, Truscott buried the rebound from just below the right faceoff dot to give the Wolverines the 1-0 advantage with six minutes left in the first.

Michigan would control the remainder of the first period and came close to doubling their lead when a shot bounced off the back boards and found the stick of junior forward Johnny Beecher. Beecher fired a one-timer that hit the crossbar as a flailing DeRidder was late to his post, and the score remained 1-0 after the Spartans cleared the puck.

MSU goaltender Drew DeRidder skates in front of the net/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The Spartans had a power-play late in the period as Nick Blankenburg went to the box for hooking, but they were unable to capitalize before time expired and headed into the first intermission down 1-0, but with a minute still left on the power-play.

Though they started the period on the man advantage, the Spartans came out of the intermission the same way they started the game: sluggish. Both teams had their fair share of scoring opportunities early in the frame but both DeRidder and Portillo kept it a one-score game.

However, with 11 minus remaining in the middle frame, the Wolverines went to work.

“We didn’t follow up a decent first period with some emotion and some energy,” Cole said. “That’s when you have got to follow up with and say ‘That was good, let’s go better.’ ”

Following a tripping call on MSU’s A.J. Hodges, Michigan went on their second power-play of the night. Though they went scoreless on their first opportunity, it would not be denied on its second chance.

MSU forward A.J. Hodges skates with the puck during the Spartans’ 3-2 loss to Ohio State on Jan. 22, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Freshman defenseman and Canton native Luke Hughes created the scoring opportunity by firing a shot from the right point past DeRidder who was screened on the play by Estapa to make it 2-0 Wolverines. It was Hughes’ second excellent scoring opportunity of the period after almost pulling off a Bobby Orr-Esque power move just two minutes prior.

From then on it was the same story: MSU penalty, Michigan power-play goal.

“Our guys got a little twisted up front and we were reading one way and it was the other,” Cole said. “We just need to be in the lanes a little bit better. That’s something we are usually very good at, but it got away from us tonight.”

UM would go on the power-play three minutes after making it 2-0 when Middendorf held Blankenburg in the corner. Freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich took a pass from Hughes along the blue line and went far side on DeRidder with 41 seconds left on the Middendorf minor to make it 3-0.

“I think it’s just a matter of blocking shots and getting in front of it,” junior forward Jagger Joshua said. “I think that’s something us forwards have to do a better job of and help Drew out there.”

Just over a minute later, Michigan would score its second even-strength goal of the night as forward Nolan Moyle scored his fifth goal of the season. Moyle was the recipient of a great pass by Nick Granowitz who used the backhand while pinned along the boards to find Moyle wide-open in the slot to extend the lead to 4-0.

Once again, after a flurry of chances for Michigan, the Spartans took another penalty after sophomore Jeremy Davidson got whistled for a slashing minor.

MSU forward Jeremy Davidson (11) tries to chase down the puck behind the net during the Spartans’ 3-2 loss to Ohio State on Jan. 22, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

With 49 seconds gone in the power-play, Hughes scored his second goal of the night with a shot from the exact spot where he made it 2-0 to give the Wolverines a commanding 5-0 lead. Hughes, who finished with two goals and one assist on the night, was voted as the first star of the game.

“We just kind of got away from our game,” captain Dennis Cesana said. “We just need to play hard as a group. We need everyone to go. We are not a team that can have a few guys or one guy take a night off. We just need to have a better effort all around tomorrow.”

The Spartans entered the game ranked 21st in the nation with their penalty kill, but ultimately gave up three goals on five opportunities against the seventh-best power play team in the nation.

During the four-goal onslaught, the Spartans failed to register a shot on goal. The Wolverines dominated the Spartans in the second period by winning the shot battle 13-2 en route to a 26-9 shot advantage through 40 minutes. MSU did not record a shot for the final 14:15 of the middle frame and went without a shot for a stretch of 16:53 between the second and third periods.

“I just want us to get back to playing the right way,” Cole said. “To get shots, it usually takes a level of play and participation of everyone on the ice, and we weren’t very much help to the one guy with the puck.”

Michigan would continue the rout in the third when Novi native Philippe LaPointe scored his second goal of the season with 4:39 remaining in regulation. Truscott fired the initial shot that was tipped in by LaPointe native to make it 6-0. The play was reviewed for a high stick but was ruled a good goal as his stick was below the crossbar.

The one bright spot for MSU occurred in the final four minutes of the game. The Spartans would score two power-play goals of their own from Joshua and Kristoff Papp, but it was ultimately too little to make a difference in a 6-2 game.

MSU forward Kristoff Papp (13) skates next to defenseman Dennis Cesana (22)/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

“It’s disappointing,” Cole said. “We’ve got a night to rectify some things, play with a little passion, and make a few more plays, and be a little bit smarter tomorrow.”

The Spartans are set to return to action tomorrow night when they head to Little Caesars Arena for the annual “Duel in the D” matchup against Michigan. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tomorrow’s game is also the final time the Spartans and Wolverines will play each other in the regular season.