EAST LANSING, Mich. — A lot of times rivalry games come up short on expectations, but Friday night’s matchup between Michigan State and Michigan was a battle. Munn Ice Arena was bumping all night, and created an atmosphere most college programs would kill for.
“It was outstanding. It starts with the student section they’ve been incredible all season,” said Michigan State head coach Danton Cole. “They got the rink rocking.”
The sold-out crowd saw MSU pick their biggest home win of the season, behind two 3rd period goals.
After grabbing a confidence-building win on the road you’d expect the Spartans to buzz around against the in-state rival Wolverines but the team from Ann Arbor were the ones who were able to seize their opportunities early.
After a cross-checking penalty on Zach Osburn, Michigan’s leading scorer Josh Norris tallied his eighth goal of the year. The Spartans would take three penalties in the first period as Michigan State did not come out sharp in the first ten minutes of the first period.
“Sometimes the emotions run real high,” said Cole. “You either control your emotions or they control you, were amped up pretty much getting nothing done.”
The Spartans picked it up during the latter half of the first has the Spartans started grinding. MSU’s third line led by Brody Stevens was the best line for the Spartans as they were consistently applying pressure on Wolverine goaltender Hayden Lavigne, eventually, that pressure gave way to Stevens’ fourth goal of the season, tying the game at 1.
Lavigne was shaky all night for the Wolverines has allowed four goals on 29 shots continuing Michigan’s goalie woes.
The second period brought good hockey by both teams as both teams as there ware plenty of big hits and lots of trash talking. The Wolverines controlled the first five minutes in the period again, as sophomore right winger Jack Becker tipped the shot over MSU goalie Drew DeRidder’s right shoulder.
DeRidder had his best performance of the season keeping the Spartans in the game all night. The freshman goalie made a couple incredible saves that would’ve found the back of the net earlier this year. DeRidder had 43 saves and showed why he was such a highly touted prospect out of the U.S. Development Program.
“W played a really good defensive game, other than a few breakdowns we battled through it,” said DeRidder.
The KHL line was able to claim another victim, as they buzzed in the Michigan backend for 45 seconds before Hirose set up Tommy Miller for his first goal in a Spartan uniform. Miller has struggled this season after dazzling as a freshman a year ago.
“I’ve been telling (Tommy) he’ll scoring on Friday and Saturday for a year and half,” joked Cole.
The Wolverines might have out-shot the Spartans by 10 going into the third period, but it did not seem as the Spartans were being dominated. In fact, the game looked pretty even and was all you ever could want while watching a hockey game.
For the first time this season, Michigan State was able to apply pressure from the jump in the third period as MSU was able to capitalize on their first power play in their last 24 attempts. Cody Milan was able to bury a Taro Hirose rebound giving the Spartans their first lead of the night at 18:55. The Spartans’ struggles on the power play was a burden on MSU players for the last few weeks, but the drought-breaker came at the best possible time.
“It was a big relief off the shoulders,” said MSU center Mitchell Lewandowski. “You get the bounce you’re looking for, it’s obviously very nice.”
The lead didn’t last much more than a minute as Islanders draft pick Nick Pastujov was able to clean up a mad scramble in front of the Spartan net to tie the game up for Michigan. Michigan wasn’t able to carry that momentum as they were stagnant in the third period, not really creating any real scoring chances.
That lack of juice ended up costing the Wolverines as Michigan State was able to score the game-winner on a yard sale in front of the net. The goal was credited to Lewandowski, his fifth this year.
“Honestly, I didn’t know it went in at first,” said Lewandowski. “When it did it was a great feeling.”
The goal was evident of the team’s effort against the Wolverines. Gritty.
“It’s fun to win and get ready for tomorrow because it’s gonna be a battle tomorrow,” said Cole.
The Spartans take on the Wolverines tomorrow at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.