Spartans drop third straight ‘Duel in the D’ despite late surge

Luke Sloan, Assistant Sports Editor

DETROIT – A late-game surge was too little too late for Michigan State, as the Spartans fell to the Michigan Wolverines 5-2 at Little Caesars Arena in the annual ‘Duel in the D’ game in downtown Detroit.

The Wolverines never trailed in either game of this two-game series, earning their first weekend series sweep of the Big Ten season. This marks the third time Michigan State has been swept in a weekend conference series, with the first two coming at the hands of Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

The Spartans found themselves facing a major deficit just over two minutes into the third period, when Nolan Moyle outskated Christian Krygier along the boards, creating plenty of space in front of him to beat Drew DeRidder with a backhander and put his team up 3-0.

Despite trailing big and being outplayed through two periods, the Spartans forged what looked to be a promising comeback. This spurt was started off on a crucial power play, as a Logan Lambdin shot rebounded off Michigan goaltender Strauss Mann right to Mitchell Lewandowski, who deposited it to get his team on the board at 13:03.  

With newfound confidence the Spartans started applying heavy pressure, and another goal was a result after Jerad Rosburg eluded multiple defenders on a drive to the net, sliding the puck over to a cutting Lewandowski who netted his second of the game to bring his team within one, 3-2.

It was a brand-new game, but this run would come to an end when DeRidder vacated the net with 1:39 remaining. Trouble locating the puck in the neutral zone cost the Spartans, and Luke Morgan was able to corral a loose puck and score an empty-net goal to seal the game for the Wolverines.

“We gave ourselves a chance to come back in the third,” Lewandowski said. “We stuck with our process and there was no quit on the bench. It’s about taking something and learning from it. We definitely gave ourselves a chance to come back in that game.”

Michigan (12-11-6) would add another empty-netter from Moyle to widen the lead to three, winning the game and improving to 8-7-4-2, good for second in the Big Ten standings behind Ohio State. MSU now sits at 6-10-4-2 in conference play, still one win short of besting last year’s Big Ten win total.

“Overall I thought the guys competed and battled hard tonight,” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “I think there’s some things that we can do better, I don’t know if it was our best weekend, but you have to give Michigan some credit.”

The nine-game point streak of Taro Hirose came to an end following a rare quiet night offensively. His linemate Lewandowski still enjoyed success, scoring his 14th and 15th goals of the season to lead the Spartans.

DeRidder made 25 stops in his fifth straight start, but he was outdueled by Mann, who came away with 21 saves and the win after standing strong in the face of pressure late in the game. The fifth start in a row is now a season high for DeRidder, who’s seemed to take the reins between the pipes for MSU.

“I can’t say enough about our goaltender Strauss Mann,” Michigan head coach Mel Pearson said. “I thought he stood tall tonight and had some great saves against some of their top players. I think he was a real difference in this hockey game.”

Coming off an improved third period of Friday night’s game at Yost Ice Arena, Michigan State struggled out of the gates in the final game of the series. Superstar defenseman Quinn Hughes got the game going for a second night in a row, skating past multiple Michigan State defenders and dishing a pass to Dakota Raabe in front for the opening score.

Will Lockwood then kept his hot streak going, scoring his eighth goal in the last 10 games to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead after one period of play. A scoreless second period would ensue, but the Spartans didn’t struggle for scoring chances, peppering Mann with 10 shots and generating opportunities on an active power play.

“I didn’t think the first was horrible,’’ Cole said. “I thought the teams were battling pretty hard, but we let two goals get away from us.”

The deficit would grow to 3-0 early in the third, but the attempt at a comeback tightened the game, forcing Michigan to execute down the stretch and earn the last three points of a six-point weekend sweep.

Michigan State remains winless in neutral site games, going 1-2-2 against the rival Wolverines this season and losing its third straight ‘Duel in the D’ game. The Spartans played to a 2-2 tie the last time they took the ice at Little Caesars Arena, with that contest coming against Michigan as well.

Penn State heads to East Lansing next weekend for the final two regular-season games at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans now sit at 10-15-5 on the season with only four more games remaining before the Big Ten tournament.