DETROIT — Despite a strong push in the third period, Michigan State failed to make a comeback as the Spartans fell to the No. 19 Michigan Wolverines 3-2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Saturday night.
Like most of the games between Michigan State and Michigan the intensity was extreme. Hits and penalties were plentiful between the two arch-rivals.
“There was a lot of hits out there, a lot of penalties… especially on our end,” said sophomore forward Patrick Khodorenko. “It was a pretty intense game.”
Michigan State would be penalized five times in the game for a total of 23 penalty minutes. While the Spartans will need to be a bit more disciplined going forward, coach Danton Cole said he does not want his team to lose the edge they have been playing with.
“We don’t want to take away from the aggressive side of it, ya you’ve got to take less penalties but sometimes that’s just the time of the game.”
Cole continued, “It’s easy to be cautious and you can’t play that way. I mean you think back to […] Ricky Bobby, you know ‘America’s all about hot, bad-ass nasty speed’ and that’s how you’ve got to play the game of hockey. Ricky Bobby the famous hockey… sage.”
The Wolverines opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game. After the Spartans failed to clear the zone, a hard shot by Michigan defenseman Griffin Luce rebounded to senior captain Tony Calderone. Instead of shooting the puck, Calderone sent a hard pass to the slot and found a streaking Cooper Marody who one-timed the puck into the back of the net. The goal marked Marody’s 11th tally of the season and 33rd point.
Both teams traded two power play opportunities, but like Friday night, both teams’ penalty kills held firm.
The Spartans started to get a little bit of momentum in the 2nd period but a hit from behind on the part of Spartan freshman Mitch Lewandowski negated that momentum. Lewandowski was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his illegal hit.
Michigan embarked on their five-minute man advantage, and for a majority of it the Wolverines didn’t really threaten. But with five seconds remaining on the major Joe Becker was able to tap home a rebound off a goalmouth scramble to extend the Michigan lead to 2-0.
“The emotional things you get on the wrong side of it, said Spartan coach Danton Cole. “You kill 4:55 of that off you know five more seconds there or [a]little better stick there and we get that out of the short slot area.”
Even without their leading scorer the Spartans pressed hard in the third period. After Michigan got called for a hand pass, the ensuing offensive zone faceoff was won by sophomore center Patrick Khodorenko to fellow sophomore Taro Hirose. Hirose then ripped a hard shot that beat Michigan netminder Hayden Lavigne low-blocker.
“They were a little desperate and a little determined,” Cole said of his team in the final period. “I liked what our guys did in the third, they battled hard, I’m proud of that.”
Hirose’s 10th goal of the season came just 21 seconds into the period, and trimmed Michigan’s lead to 2-1. After killing off another penalty, the Spartans got a prime opportunity to tie the game as U of M senior Dexter Dancs took a penalty for cross-checking with just over 11 minutes to play in regulation.
Michigan State, with their best looking power play of the weekend, penned Michigan in their own zone as the Wolverines failed to clear the puck. Shot after shot, chance after chance was sent toward Lavigne but the Spartans couldn’t force in the equalizer.
“I’d say it [the power play]was probably a little bit better [than last night]. We kinda didn’t hold on to it, kinda got the puck and passed it right back or took it to the net but still didn’t get the goal. But I think it’s trending in the right direction,” said Khodorenko.
Soon after Michigan finished off their kill, Quinn Hughes pulled off another highlight-reel-quality goal to rival his one from Friday night. Hughes received a near rink-wide pass from Michigan defenseman Joseph Cecconi near the bottom of the left circle. Hughes then toe-dragged across his body and into the slot where he sent a quick wrist shot past an outstretched John Lethemon to extend Michigan’s lead to 3-1.
Michigan State responded a just over a minute later thanks to freshman David Keefer. Keefer got a pass from Khodorenko while he was skating into the far side of the slot. After turning to his backhand to ward off a poke-check Keefer, a right-handed shot, turned his body around and was able to get the puck back to his forehand. Once there, he shot the puck across Lavigne’s body and beat him over the glove.
Keefer’s third goal of the season brought Michigan State back within one with just under five minutes to play.
“David’s jumped in, scored some nice goals, he had a really nice one last week as well against Ohio State and he’s a good player,” Cole said.
As time ran down, Michigan State had one last good chance to tie the game.
Off a scramble in front, a rebound came to Spartan forward Cody Milan who send a quick backhand shot towards a seemingly open net. However, Cecconi, who was drifting toward the near-side post but stumbled into the crease, was able to get his body in front of the puck and keep it from crossing the line.
After video review, it was determined that while Cecconi’s body was partially inside the net when the puck hit him, there was not enough evidence to conclude Milan’s shot had crossed the goal-line.
That would be the last good chance the Spartans had as they failed to convert with the extra attacker.
Michigan State outshot Michigan 14-6 in the final period for a final total of 34 shots on goal, one more than the Wolverines’ 33.
The loss puts Michigan State at 10-18-2 overall and 4-14-2-1 in the Big Ten. Their next action is next weekend at home against Penn State.
Despite losing out on the Iron D trophy, and losing the season series to Michigan, Cole was proud of the effort his team showed in the third period down by two goals.
“We want wins, obviously that’s the point of the game, but there’s an awful lot of good there and where we’re moving there’s a pretty good base of things and if you have to coach effort then you’ve got no chance. The guys, they gave us all they had tonight so no complaints.”