DETROIT — Though Michigan and Michigan State play each other at least four times a season, Friday’s first annual “Duel in the D” carried more weight. Literally. The two teams played for the Iron ‘D’ trophy and a “mini championship” as Michigan coach Red Berenson called it.
And after climbing back from a 2-1 deficit, the Spartans eventually prevailed in overtime, 3-2, and won the first “Duel in the D”.
Forward Matt DeBlouw found the puck in the slot and beat Michigan netminder Steve Racine with 1:31 left in the extra frame. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but as Berenson said after the game, it didn’t need to be.
The Spartans had a man advantage at the time of the goal after sophomore defenseman Cutler Martin took a penalty at the start of overtime.
“It was a great effort by Michigan State and I know their coaches have been after them to get better,” Berenson said. “It was a game where goals were precious and they scored goals when they needed to.
“Take a penalty in overtime … that hurts.”
After combining for 20 goals in their first two meetings — Michigan won both, 9-2 and 6-3 — the game saw no goals in the first period. The Spartans (3-8-0-0 Big Ten, 7-18-2 overall) played a much more traditional defensive style, clearing the puck as soon as they got ahold of it, and it proved largely successful against the Wolverines’ offense that averages five goals per game. That’s a massive feat for the Spartans, who are the nation’s 50th-ranked defense and allow 3.5 goals per game.
The first 10 minutes of the second period looked much like the first until Michigan State forward Joe Cox buried a penalty shot through senior netminder Steve Racine’s five-hole. Cox was awarded the shot after sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski tripped him on a short-handed breakaway chance.
Werenski said earlier this week that he needed to be more physical.
“Every time someone comes down with a Spartan jersey on, you want to run them through the boards and play hard against them,” Werenski said. “I feel this weekend I shouldn’t have a problem having that aspect in my game.”
Berenson agreed that he needed to be more physical, but he cautioned that “he can’t be taking high risks.”
On Cox’s breakaway, he certainly had that aspect in his game, but perhaps took too great of a risk.
However, it didn’t take long for Michigan (7-2-2-1, 16-4-4) to respond. Just as junior forward Tyler Motte exited the penalty box, he found the puck on his stick and only Spartan netminder Jake Hildebrand stood in his way. Motte deked twice, eventually beating Hildebrand top shelf on his stick side.
Motte netted his second goal of the game after receiving a nifty backhanded pass from junior forward JT Compher and beating Hildebrand stick side once again. It was his nation-leading 24th goal of the year, and Motte is now averaging a goal per game, scoring 24 goals in 24 games.
“Tyler had another strong game,” Berenson said. “He’s been one of our go-to players all year and he was again tonight.”
But the Spartans responded just a few minutes after, when Cox netted his second of the game, burying a rebound chance. That goal sent the game into overtime and was the precursor for the Spartans’ win.
In their first two meetings with the Spartans, the Wolverines fell behind before coming back and leaving with a win — including scoring 15 goals in those games. Berenson knew the likelihood of scoring that many goals in this game was low, and he stressed that to his team.
“You knew they would come back with a vengeance,” Berenson said.
And that they did.