Victory, and a Bye, For MSU

The game was tied, and another chance to clinch a bye in the Big Ten Tournament was at stake. It all came down to the final 20 minutes

The puck dropped and 29 seconds later, the Michigan State bench erupted as junior forward, Matt DeBlouw buried a breakaway goal over UM sophomore goalie, Zach Nagelvoort’s right shoulder to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead.

With the clock slowly ticking below seven minutes, Michigan gained the zone and UM junior forward, Cristoval ‘Boo’ Nieves threw a puck towards the net. It ricocheted off of Rhett Holland’s leg and bounced right to the stick of UM sophomore forward, Tyler Motte near the right faceoff dot.

Motte looked up at a vacant net and fired a shot labeled for the top right corner and junior goalie, Jake Hildebrand came across and gloved down what might turn out to be the save of the season to keep the Spartans up 2-1.

The clock slowly inched on and with 1:30 on the clock, Michigan head coach Red Berenson pulled Nagelvoort for the extra attacker and everyone at sold out Yost Ice Arena was on their feet.

Puck after puck was thrown at Hildebrand but the Wolverines (20-14-0, 12-8-0 Big Ten) could not find the tying goal and after an emphatic clear by sophomore forward, Joe Cox, the clock ran out giving the Spartans their first win at Yost since November 13, 2009 and more importantly, a bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

“That was a lot of fun,” captain Michael Ferrantino said. “No it wasn’t pretty, probably wasn’t how we wrote it out to be, but I’m proud of our guys. We got the job done. It was a total team effort.”

The team effort was highlighted by Hildebrand’s 37 saves.

“I thought our goalie had the best game of the season on maybe the biggest night of the season for us,” head coach Tom Anastos said.

It was a big response to Friday’s loss by Michigan State (17-15-2, 11-7-2-2 Big Ten) on their senior night.

“Last night was not the result we were looking for especially on our seniors night,” Hildebrand said. “We knew our seniors haven’t won a game here so we wanted to make their last regular season game something special. I think all the guys came together tonight.”

Bouncing back after a tough loss on the road is nothing new for Michigan State. The Spartans had a similar bounce back effort at Minnesota.

“We talked about experience that we gained a couple of weeks ago on losing a three goal lead at Minnesota,” Anastos said. “That was a must win game for us to stay in the whole Big Ten race, the whole bye-type situation. That was a must win, you lose that game and you’re out of it.”

Saturday’s game started very differently for the Spartans. After waiting nearly 12 minutes to get their first shot on goal last night, Michigan State jumped out and got a lead 7:50 in on a long range shot that Nagelvoort should have stopped.

After Michigan killed Michigan State’s only powerplay of the day, Ferrantino took the puck up the left side and from just inside the boards fired a wrist shot that ticked off of Nagelvoort’s glove and into the net.

Senior defenseman, Ron Boyd and Cox picked up the helpers on Ferrantino’s team-leading 12th goal of the season. The captain has three goals in his last five games.

A strong start by the Spartans faded in the latter half of the period as the Wolverines started peppering Hildebrand, but big saves, including a breakaway save with the blocker on UM senior forward, Zach Hyman, kept Michigan off the board.

The Spartan defense blocked 15 shots in the first period, which was more than the 11 shots blocked in the entire game Friday night.

Michigan continued its attack into the second period and Michigan State went the first 9:23 without a shot on goal. A penalty minutes later to Josh Jacobs put Michigan’s dangerous power play to work.

The Wolverines did not waste much time before UM freshman defenseman, Zach Werenski walked the blueline and flicked a wrist shot over Hildebrand’s right shoulder. With junior defenseman, John Draeger and Hyman standing in front of him, Hildebrand did not see it.

The two teams skated into the second intermission tied at one with a Big Ten regular season title on the line.

“I gave the guys some perspective heading into the third period,” Anastos said. “I said, ‘when we came back to school from summer break and I could’ve told you that you had 20 minutes to play to get a bye and possibly win a league championship, that would get us pretty excited wouldn’t it?’ So we got pretty excited and went out and scored a goal.”

DeBlouw’s breakaway goal 29 seconds into the third was his eighth goal of the season and his third against Michigan.

“It was pretty relieving just knowing we were up and (Hildebrand) was playing great all game,” DeBlouw said. “We knew if we played strong defensively and together we could hold them off. (Hildebrand) was making great saves left and right.”

The mad scrambles and fierce pressure by Michigan continued for the rest of the game, but just like the game at Joe Louis Arena, the Spartans wouldn’t buckle.

The horn sounded and a quiet Yost Ice Arena stood and watched a jubilant Spartan celebration on the ice.

“It was unbelievable shutting down the crowd,” DeBlouw said. “It was a great environment to play in but it even better winning at it.”

The defense blocked a total of 30 shots, a season high, and Michigan as a team hurled 92 shots towards the Michigan State net.

Hildebrand talked about the last few action-packed minutes of the game.

“It’s kind of one big blur,” he said. “Everybody was doing their job and pulling the rope and we got the result we were looking for. It was just a special night for everybody.”

The win on the road to close out the regular season was a fitting way to show how much the team has grown and matured since opening night.

“I’m so proud of our guys from where we’ve come in the beginning of the year to right now,” Ferrantino said. “I think you’ve seen so much growth in all aspects of our team and we’ve really come together.”

The win, along with Minnesota’s win over Penn State, put the Spartans in second place and now will wait until Friday to play the winner of Thursday’s game between Wisconsin (4-25-5, 2-15-3-2 Big Ten) and Michigan. Minnesota (21-12-3, 12-5-3 Big Ten) will await the winner of Ohio State (13-18-3, 8-11-1-1 Big Ten) and Penn State (18-4-4, 10-9-1 Big Ten).

Hockey’s March Madness is just beginning.

 


Brian Bobal is a multi-media journalists for Impact Sports