Power Play Key Factor in Win over No. 5 Wisconsin

Heading into the final games of Big Ten and regular season play, Michigan State (11-16-7) was looking to build off their 4-3 win over Michigan last weekend as they played against the visiting Wisconsin Badgers (21-9-2).

And the Spartans did just that.

Unfortunately, the early stages of the game did not look good for MSU as the Badgers scored 1:58 after the puck dropped.

Defensemen Chase Drake took a slap shot from the point and Joseph Labate deflected it over the shoulder of MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand.

After a slow start, MSU responded midway through the first period on a rebound goal by sophomore forward Justin Hoomaian, the first of his career. The Spartans added another goal just under five minutes later on the power play as Matt Berry tipped in his eighth goal of the season.

The Spartans headed into the locker room up 2-1 after the first period.

Berry, who led the Spartans in scoring last year, missed both games against Michigan last weekend due to sickness, but was ready to go against the Badgers.

Just under five minutes into the second period, Berry netted his second goal of the game to give the Spartans a 3-1 lead.

Ask any hockey coach and they will say a two goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. That remained true Friday night for the Spartans.

Wisconsin battled back and scored twice in the later stages of the second period to tie things up before the period ended.

The Badgers carried the momentum into the locker room, but MSU stole it back early in the third period with another power play goal. Sophomore Mike Ferrantino created on 2-on-1 in the Wisconsin zone and fed freshman Villiam Haag backdoor for his seventh goal of the season.

It was not until midway through the third when Wisconsin, once again, scored to tie things up, 4-4.

Teams remained even until the third period ended. However, before the buzzer sounded, Badger forward Tyler Barnes was assessed a penalty for slashing, giving the Spartans another power play that would carry into overtime.

MSU has struggled in the scoring department all season, especially on the power play, but Friday night was different.

Just 46 seconds into overtime, junior forward Brent Darnell slid the puck to senior Lee Reimer in front of the Wisconsin net and chipped a backhander past Badger goaltender Joel Rumpel, winning the game for the Spartans.

For a team that has dealt with adversity throughout the year due to injuries and lack of scoring, MSU played their best hockey of the season and at the right time. The Spartans were perfect on the power play (3-3) and nine different players recorded at least one point.

“If we’re peaking now, that’s what you want,” MSU senior captain Greg Wolfe said. “We’ve stuck with what we think has made us successful all year and have stayed positive.”

The Spartans will play No. 5 Wisconsin on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the Spartans’ senior day and will look to end their season on a high note.

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David Defever is the host of Behind The Mask for Impact Sports.

Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports