If someone had told you a month ago that the Michigan State hockey team would beat University of Michigan in any game this season, you would have called them crazy. Michigan has the best offense in the nation and averages five goals a game.
Well, that is what exactly what happened. The Spartans defeated Michigan 3-2 in overtime Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
“With this being the inaugural year of the Iron D trophy, I think it’s good for our team,” said senior goaltender Jake Hildebrand. “It’s helps us get a little bit of confidence going forward.”
The game started out with much sustained pressure by the Wolverines in the Spartans’ zone. But to their credit, the MSU defense held their own against a potent Michigan offense. Catching some breaks along the way, Hildebrand made some incredible saves and stopped all 12 shots he faced in the period.
Heading into the game, the Spartans knew that the Wolverines were very fast and could strike quick and often as they learned at Munn roughly a month ago. The “CCM line,” consisting of JT Compher, Kyle Connor, and Tyler Motte, had 53 goals amongst them before tonight’s game and the Spartans did a good job of shutting down that line and the Michigan speed for the majority of the game.
“I would say that was a pretty good night from a team defense perspective,” said MSU coach Tom Anastos. “They still had 42 shots and we couldn’t keep the puck off No.14’s stick, but it was good enough to win the game.”
Action started to pick up in the second period as both teams created good chances in their opponent’s offensive zone. After dealing with Michigan pressure in their offensive zone, the Spartans began to sustain some of their own pressure in the Michigan zone.
With 10:18 into the period, sophomore defenseman Carson Gatt took a penalty for tripping and took a seat in the penalty box. Not a minute later, Joe Cox was hooked on a breakaway that resulted in a penalty shot. On the ensuing penalty shot, Cox went forehand backhand and snuck the puck in between the legs of Michigan goaltender Steve Racine to put the Spartans up 1-0.
“I went over to talk to Hildy,” Cox said when asked what was going through his mind before the penalty shot. “He’s just really smart and knows how every goalie moves in the league. So I came up to ask him ‘hey what are you thinking?’ and he goes ‘well he [Motte] likes to spread his legs’ so that’s all I really needed.”
As the second period came to a close, Motte took a penalty for tripping and took his seat in the sin bin. The Spartans got decent looks on their powerplay but were not able to regain the lead. Then, in the unluckiest way possible to the Spartans, a Wolverine defender cleared the puck right as the penalty was expiring. As he exited the box, Motte got that cleared puck on his stick all alone on a breakaway and buried the puck over the glove hand of Hildebrand.
The game would be tied at one heading into the final twenty minutes of play.
As the game became more and more intense, the two in-state rivals began to put on quite the show for the 20,027 fans packed inside the Joe. At one point, in the third, Michael Ferrantino chopped at a puck that went through the legs of Racine and it looked to be over the goal line. But after further review, the call was no goal and the game remained tied.
Much to the tune of the Spartans season thus far, they gave up an early lead as Motte was wide open in the slot and scored his second of the game, again going top-shelf on Hildebrand.
“There was no panic,” Ferrantino said. “We had a mentality going into the end that no matter what happened, we were just gonna keep going and keep getting in their way.”
Just as they have in the past few weeks, the Spartans continued to battle. Four minutes after Motte gave the Wolverines the lead, Cox got his second goal of the night to tie the game and eventually send it to overtime.
In overtime, Michigan’s Joseph Cecconi took a penalty for slashing with just over three minutes left in the overtime session. That was all the Spartans needed as Matt Deblouw, with a perfect pass from Villiam Haag, rifled a shot from just inside the circles that went past winning the game for the Spartans.
— Spartan Vision (@Spartan_Vision) February 6, 2016
“I didn’t even see it go in. I didn’t even know it went in,” Deblouw said of his third game winning goal against the Wolverines in the last two years. “I saw Ebbing and Cox running over towards me and I think that’s more gratifying to see from my teammates. We accomplished something together and I helped out.”
The two teams will face off again tomorrow in East Lansing where Michigan will surely be hungry for revenge. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.