DETROIT, Mich. — For a second straight contest, Michigan got off to a dismal start.
And in the second period for the second night in a row, a convenient bounce led to a freshman’s first college goal to bring the Wolverines within one.
This time, though, Michigan (8-8-2 overall, 3-5-2 Big Ten) sealed the deal, coming all the way back and then some.
Slightly under five minutes into the second period, senior defenseman Sam Piazza’s shot from the point slammed off the back wall to freshman forward Michael Pastujov, who slipped the puck into the bottom-right corner of the net.
One minute later, junior forward Cooper Marody redirected a cross-ice pass from senior forward Dexter Dancs behind Michigan State goaltender John Lethemon to tie the score at three.
To lead off the final stanza, senior defenseman Cutler Martin’s shot ricocheted off the back of Spartan defender Zach Osburn and past a helpless Lethemon, giving the Wolverines their first lead of the Great Lakes Invitational — one they would not relinquish.
Michigan claimed third place in the GLI for the second straight year with a 6-4 victory over the same opponent — Michigan State (8-11-1, 2-7-1) — as in 2017.
As usual, the Wolverines’ high-powered first line set the pace, especially Marody — who recorded his second career hat-trick with his equalizer and then two third-period goals. Senior forward Tony Calderone assisted on all three of them, while Dancs registered one assist of his own.
It’s unlikely anyone would have seen this coming a couple hours before. Just 26 seconds after the intial puck drop, Spartan forward Taro Hirose scooted through Michigan’s defense and found the net to open the scoring. Four minutes later, forward Logan Lambdin tipped defenseman Carson Gatt’s shot into a wide-open net created when a Michigan State player collided with sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne — a goal which was reviewed for interference, but ultimately stood.
“Obviously it’s not the start we wanted,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “Twenty seconds into the game we get one behind and we get 2-0. … I thought we got a break after the first period just to regroup a little bit and just to have a chat.”
The first half-hour, while still ugly for the Wolverines, wasn’t quite the same nightmare it had been against Bowling Green the previous night, which had a 4-0 lead 24 minutes into the bout. Michigan showed more life on offense, moved the puck and created decent chances.
Not surprisingly, that all led to better results Tuesday. Three minutes into the second period, sophomore forward James Sanchez halved the deficit with a flick from the left wing that caught the right side of the net. But two minutes after that, Sanchez was penalized for tripping, leading to a power-play goal by Patrick Khodorenko to restore the Spartans’ original lead.
Last night, Pearson bemoaned the fact his team couldn’t do much after bringing the game within one goal. Again, Tuesday was different. After Martin’s goal, Khodorenko was hit with a crucial major penalty for cross-checking.
With the man advantage, Michigan could do whatever it wanted for the next five minutes. Shots flew in from everywhere, but it was one in particular — a high wrister by Marody for his second goal — that carried the most influence.
Michigan State capitalized on a power-play of its own with a five-on-three advantage to stay in the game. But Marody’s third salvo sealed the deal with four minutes remaining.
“I think that we just had more will tonight,” Martin said. “Our team, we’re not as skilled maybe as we were my freshman and sophomore year. This year we sometimes have to play a little grindier game. And just making sure we do that, holding each other accountable.
“Coach (Pearson) really made sure last night that we came ready to play today. So I think everybody was ready and when the time came and your number was called you were ready to perform.”