Disastrous second period dooms Spartans at Yost

Luke Sloan, Assistant Sports Editor

ANN ARBOR, Mich – A poor second period, one that saw three Michigan scores, proved detrimental in a 5-3 loss at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena.

The contest was knotted at one goal apiece after the first period, but defensive lapses and an inability to locate the puck cost the Spartans and put the game out of reach. A pass from behind the net to Michigan’s Michael Pastujov out in front was the first gaffe at 2:52.

Jack Becker then followed that up by depositing a loose puck in the back of the net later in the period at 14:36, his second goal on the night after opening the scoring in the first. The trifecta was finished off by Will Lockwood with less than three minutes to play, when his shot from the point snuck through a heavily guarded crease.

After a first period that saw more stellar play from Drew DeRidder and a 3-on-2 breakaway score from Sam Saliba, the ensuing period stretched the score to 4-1 and all but ousted the Spartans’ chances at victory over the rival Wolverines.

“They made some plays,” MSU head coach Cole said. “But obviously we want our guys to be better on the defensive side. We got caught staring at the puck a couple times and we weren’t helping on the backside as well. We have to be better on that end.”

Taro Hirose was able to extend his career-high point streak to nine games with a first period assist, but the dangerous KHL line was held in check for the majority of the contest. The vaunted line only compiled two shots through two periods, but finished the game strong in what was an improved third period for the Spartans.

“Taro (Hirose) doesn’t cheat us,” Cole said. “He works hard all the time. Sometimes he gets three or four points and sometimes he only has one, but he’s a good hockey player and he always competes.”

DeRidder made his fourth straight start, giving up five goals and making 31 saves. The freshman netminder won’t be happy with the final results, but his efforts kept the Spartans in the game on multiple occasions, especially in the first period. Those crucial saves were recognized by his teammate Saliba following the game.

“This one’s not on Drew (DeRidder),” Saliba said. “You can only ask your goalie to make so many big saves in a game like that. I thought he played really well.”

One bright spot for Michigan State was the penalty kill unit, which didn’t allow a power play goal the entire contest despite five Michigan chances with the man advantage. The most meaningful kill occured in the third period, directly after an Austin Kamer goal to cut the deficit to 4-2. Wojciech Stachowiak picked up a tripping penalty at 5:59, but a stellar penalty kill from Tommy Apap and company kept the Spartans within two and avoided what could have been the sealing goal for Michigan.

Becker opened the game for Michigan (11-11-6) with a tap-in goal off a rebound from Quinn Hughes, a Hobey Baker finalist who owns 26 points on the season. A pass from Dennis Cesana to a cutting Saliba would even the score at 17:38.

The unfavorable second would follow, but the Spartans were able to put together a quality final period on both ends of the ice to finish the game on a positive note. Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne was finally tested, facing 11 shots in the third after a quiet couple periods to begin the game.

“We worked harder, we skated harder and we made some better decisions,” Cole said on his team’s third period effort. “A lot of things that we need to do to be successful we didn’t do in the first two periods.”

Kamer’s third period goal right of a faceoff was his first of the season on an assist by Logan Lambdin. Stachowiak netted his fourth goal of the season on another assist from Lambdin to complete the Spartans’ two-goal third period.

Another key moment of the third occured at 12:30, when DeRidder was knocked down by two opposing players in the crease, allowing a shot from Pastujov to hit the back of the net. The officials immediately signaled goaltender interference, keeping the score at 4-2, but replay review would overturn the call, giving Michigan a three-goal advantage and further nullifying a potential comeback effort.

“It seems to be a rule that is very wishy-washy,” Saliba said on the goaltender interference. “There’s not much consistency in that rule.”

The Wolverines outshot the Spartans 36-23 on the game. Lavigne made 20 saves while Becker and Pastujov both scored two goals to lead their team.

Michigan State now falls to 10-14-5 on the season and 6-9-4-2 in Big Ten play. These two teams will finish the series tomorrow in Detroit for the annual ‘Duel in the D’ game at Little Caesars Arena.

“We’re at a point in the season when every game feels like the playoffs,” Cole said. “We can’t win next weekend tonight, we can’t win tomorrow today but we can take care of the next game we’ve got, and that starts tomorrow.”