Spartans’ season ends with a whimper against rival Michigan

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Photo: Jason Ruff/Impact

Nathan Stearns, Women's Basketball/Field Hockey Beat Reporter

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After being defeated by a 3-0 margin last night, the Michigan State Spartans were unable to force a game three in the Big Ten quarterfinals against Michigan, as the Green and White fell to the Wolverines by a final of 3-0 at Yost Ice Arena. Wolverine right winger Will Lockwood and center Johnny Beecher would both score in the second period to give Michigan its first two goals. Jake Slaker would add an empty net goal in the third to put the game out of reach for the Spartans. With the loss, MSU’s season is over. It will finish with an overall record of 15-19-2.  Of those 19 losses, four came at the hands of the Wolverines.

“Last night I had some issues with us early in the game, but tonight the guys played real hard and battled,” said Michigan State coach Danton Cole. “We just couldn’t get anything by their guy tonight and sometimes that’s the way it goes. Unfortunately, this was one we had to have or it ends our season.”

Despite receiving three power play chances, the Spartans were held scoreless by Michigan goalie Strauss Mann for the second time in two nights. After notching a dominating 25-save performance on Friday night, Mann would have another strong night by knocking aside all 20 Spartan shots on goal. 

Both clubs struggled to generate consistent offensive momentum early. Michigan would receive the first power play opportunity of the contest after Spartan right winger Brody Stevens was called for interference at the 3:41 mark in the first period. John Lethemon would keep the game scoreless with three strong saves during the Wolverine power play. 

“We had plenty of chances and it is kind of hard when you work that hard and nothing comes out,” said Spartan junior defensemen Tommy Miller. 

MSU would then be gifted with a power play opportunity after Michigan defensemen Jack Summers was whistled for hooking at the 8:03 mark. The Green and White proceeded to squander the opportunity after not being able to notch one shot on goal over the course of the two-minute infraction. 

Third line Wolverine center Garret Van Wyhe would be whistled for high-sticking at the 12:44 mark in the first period. Michigan’s penalty kill would once again hold serve against the Spartan attack and keep the game scoreless as the first quarter wound down. 

The evenly matched contest was scoreless at the end of one. The Wolverines led the Spartans in shots on goal by 7-6 after one, while the Spartans would go 0-2 on power play opportunities.

“Overall the attitude and effort was outstanding,” said Cole. “That was the biggest thing we talked about was that this was going to be a tough one and we needed to lay it all out on the line”

Michigan would finally capitalize on the power play in the second, as Lockwood drove a hard slapshot past the outstretched right pad of Lethemon at the 5:20 mark in the second period to give the Maize and Blue a 1-0 lead. Jake Slaker and Nick Blankenberg would receive credit for the assist on the Lockwood goal. 

The Wolverines would extend their lead with a minute and a half left in the second period, as Beecher would go five-hole against Lethemon to give the Maize and Blue a 2-0 advantage in the waning moments of the second period. Beecher’s goal would be unassisted.

Michigan’s defense would continue to prevent MSU from getting any sustained offensive momentum throughout the course of the third period. MSU would only be able to muster nine shots on goal in the third. Because of the inconsistent Spartan offense, the Maize and Blue would coast to the 3-0 victory. Slaker would add an empty net goal to put the game on ice. Nick Pastujov would get credit for the assist on the Slaker goal. 

“It’s all about being physical and creating your own space and sometimes we were able to do that,” said Spartan senior Jerad Rosburg. “Other guys couldn’t get the pucks through or find the open lanes. Sometimes we had guys in front, but we just couldn’t get there.”

With the loss, MSU’s season is finished. The Spartans’ final overall record for the 2019-20 season lies at 15-19-2. The Green and White finished conference play with an 11-11-2 record. Despite taking the first two meetings of the season against Michigan on Nov. 14 and 16, the Spartans will enter the offseason with a four-game losing streak at the hands of the Maize and Blue.

Nathan Stearns is a beat reporter for Impact 89FM WDBM who primarily covers women’s basketball and field hockey. Follow him on Twitter at @NathanStearns11.