Wolverines win ‘Duel in the D’ to complete sweep of Spartans


Sam Saliba/Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Kyle Hatty, Hockey Beat Reporter

DETROIT, Mich. — The Spartans and Wolverines met for the second time in four days on Monday night for the annual “Duel in the D” after Michigan took game one of the series on Friday night in East Lansing. Michigan came into the night only a point behind the Spartans, who were in a tie for third place in the Big Ten. However, the Wolverines gained ground in the Big Ten after beating Michigan State 4-1 to win their fourth straight “Duel in the D” matchup, dating back to 2017.

Friday’s game started fast and physical in Michigan’s 5-1 win. The Wolverines got the early lead and never let up. Tonight was much of the same, as Will Lockwood got the Wolverines on the board just over five minutes into the game off a rush to give Michigan an early lead against MSU’s John Lethemon, who sits third in the nation in save percentage at .938. But the Spartans wouldn’t let the Wolverines replicate what they did on Friday. Just over a minute later, Dennis Cesana would get the game knotted at one goal apiece. But Michigan would reclaim the lead on the power play with a Jacob Hayhurst deflection goal to make it 2-1 Michigan, a lead they would take into the first intermission.

The middle period began with a couple Spartan mistakes that cost them. Dennis Cesana took an early penalty that led to Michigan’s second power play goal of the night thanks to Nick Blankenburg to make it 3-1. Michigan scored power play goals in both games this series against Michigan State who came into Monday as the top ranked penalty kill in the nation. The remainder of the second was a lot of back and forth, but no real action and the Spartans headed into the locker room down 3-1. They came back from this same deficit against the Wolverines earlier this season in these two teams’ first meeting of the season at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor.

The Spartans came into the third period hoping to replicate their comeback as well as avoid getting swept and taking a major hit in the Big Ten standings. But their good day offensively was overshadowed by the star of the game, Michigan goalie Strauss Mann. Mann is arguably the hottest goalie in the Big Ten since the new year began and his stellar play has led to a 9-1 record in conference play since Jan. 1. He continued that tonight by only allowing the Spartans to score once on 31 shots.

“I thought we played a hard game and did a lot of good things,” said MSU coach Danton Cole. “We were able to get one but they were able to pop a couple and get a couple tips and they came out on the plus side.”

There would be no comeback tonight. Just about a minute into the period, Michigan captain Will Lockwood got his second of the game on a tip-in goal that put the Wolverines up by three and put the game out of reach for the Spartans. The 4-1 score would hold the rest of the way and the loss gives the Spartans their first weekend without a point since Ohio State on Nov. 30.

“There’s big stakes on the line so the rivalry makes it a tough one to swallow,” said MSU captain Tommy Apap. “But we have Ohio State coming up and we’re looking at the Big Ten playoff picture right now.”

STANDINGS: Michigan moves into third place in the conference with a total of 33 points and only three points behind first place. The Spartans get no points this weekend and remain tied with Ohio State for fourth place at 31 points each.

UP NEXT: Michigan State will return home to host No. 12 Ohio State for the Spartans’ final home series of the regular season. Michigan will return home and host Notre Dame for the Wolverines’ final home series of the regular season as well.

Kyle Hatty is a hockey beat reporter for Impact 89FM WDBM. Follow him on Twitter at @KyleHattyIN.