Spartans Blown Away in the Windy City

The ice conditions were not perfect, which caused the opening faceoff to be delayed for a total of one hour and 40 minutes. Once the puck dropped, the Wolverines made the adjustments the Spartans did not.

After Michigan State derailed Michigan’s winning streak last week, the Wolverines found their mojo Saturday night under the stars at Soldier Field in Chicago. Backed by 31 saves from Zach Nagelvoort and four goals from four different players, No. 14 Michigan cruised to a 4-1 win over Michigan State.

“I thought the better team won the game,” Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos said. “I thought they did a better job managing the game than we did. They were way better at creating danger in the front of our net and ultimately creating some goals than we were.”

Cutler Martin, a native of East Lansing, scored what proved to be the game-winning goal for the Wolverines in the latter half of the second period, with his fourth of the season, to make it 2-0. After Ron Boyd could not clear the puck out of the zone, Cutler knocked down the puck and beat Jake Hildebrand from the high slot.

“It’s great to beat the Spartans, but I want to beat every single team we play,” Martin said. “That was a big goal for our team and I’m glad it could help us get the win.”

The win catapults Michigan back into first place in the conference, while the loss drops Michigan State to fourth.

The underwhelming crowd, officially announced as 22,751, barely had time to get to its seats when Michael Downing broke the ice for Michigan on a shot from the point that beat a screened Hildebrand.

Michigan State is now 1-11 when giving up the first goal.

From that point on, Michigan carried the play for most of the rest of the game. After falling behind, the Spartans attempted too many long-range passes, many missing the mark, whereas the Wolverines stuck to crisp, quick, short passes through the neutral zone.

Four minutes after Martin’s goal made it 2-0, the Spartans’ hole got deeper, when Andrew Copp knocked his 13th goal of the season under Hildebrand’s pads.

Michigan State was finally able to solve Nagelvoort just under six minutes into the third period when Matt DeBlouw pounced on a loose puck in front of the net. That was DeBlouw’s second in as many games and sixth on the season. Mackenzie MacEachern and Matt Berry added assists.

The Spartans then went on a surge, throwing 30 shots toward the Michigan net in the period, but only saw 11 of them get on goal, and they would not close the gap anymore.

With Hildebrand on the bench and 1:12 left on the clock, Justin Selman put the game away with an empty-net goal for his sixth of the season.

Despite the loss, the Spartans still took in the atmosphere and what a privilege it was to be a part of the Coyote Logistics Hockey City Classic.

“It was a really cool experience to get to come to an event like this,” Michigan State captain, Michael Ferrantino, said. “It was something I’ll never forget.”

Even Tom Anastos looked at the overall impact of the event.

“In the end, losing sucks, but you take away the experience for the kids,” Anastos said. “We do this for the players more than anything else. We had a nice contingent of people that came to Chicago and enjoyed the city, that’s a big part of it. In the end, the kids will have this experience, unfortunately it’s a loss, but I think it was worth it.”

Michigan State needs to turn the page quickly because next week, the Spartans welcome second place Penn State to Munn Arena.

“We’re in the home stretch here,” Anastos said. “I talked to our team right after the game about we have to take away the lessons we can learn from this experience. It can’t draw us down, we have to learn from it and get better and start to look at Penn State.”

Brian Bobal is the co-host of Behind the Mask for Impact Sports
Photo: Brian Bobal/Impact Sports