By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 30, 2011
DETROIT — In a hockey game for the ages, there are bound to be valiant efforts that get buried under a pile of game changers. The Michigan hockey team’s 3-2 overtime thriller against Michigan State was no exception.
There was fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick and his 23 saves, four of them coming in sudden-death overtime when a miscalculation or wrong guess would’ve sent the MacInnes Cup to East Lansing. Instead, it will remain at Yost Ice Arena for the fourth time in five years.
There was senior defenseman Greg Pateryn’s dominating performance from the point, rifling shots in at Spartan netminder Drew Palmisano. For much of the game, it appeared the Wolverines would fall victim to a hot goalie, as the Joe Louis Arena scoreboard showed a goose egg for the “visitors” until midway through the final frame.
“Palmisano played great tonight,” said junior forward A.J. Treais. “The game could’ve went either way.”
Pateryn also blocked four shots at the other end, each one from a more threatening position on the ice than the last.
But one play won’t soon be forgotten by any of the 17,242 spectators who filled the arena and grew louder by the minute, realizing they were witnessing something special.
Just over halfway through the overtime period — and with the way each goaltender rose to the occasion, it looked like there may be multiple — junior defenseman Lee Moffie found himself inside of the circle with the puck.
Palmisano’s eyes fixated on Moffie, the same focus he displayed throughout the tournament. But he was screened on the far post. Palmisano didn’t see sophomore defenseman Kevin Clare sneaking toward the net. Moffie did. The pass he sent goalward allowed Clare to tap in the winner with ease.
“Moffie made a great play,” Clare said Friday. “Thank God it got to me, because if that got poked, it’s an odd-man rush down. Thankfully, he got the puck to me and — open net.”
In a span of just a few seconds, Clare went from unsung defenseman to instant hero and tournament MVP, buried under a dog pile of maize and blue bodies. The game-winning goal was just his second career tally.
Michigan coach Red Berenson thought the up-tempo pace in overtime with few stoppages helped his team, which Spartan defenseman and first team all-tournament member Torey Krug described as “fast” and “one of the best transition teams in the nation.”
“There’s no media timeouts in overtime,” Berenson said. “I like the pace and I like the momentum that gets going for everyone.”
That momentum was hardly on the Wolverines’ side during regulation. Twice, they had to fight back from two-goal deficits.
After Michigan State’s Tanner Sorenson ripped a shot from outside of the circle for the first goal of his career, the Spartans went into the second intermission ahead.
But midway through the third period, Michigan junior forward Derek DeBlois spotted a rebound that Palmisano couldn’t catch up to.
Just two minutes later, however, Brett Perlini regained the lead for Michigan State on a one timer from the left circle.
Trailing 2-1 with two minutes remaining, the Wolverines, playing with a sense of urgency, needed a spark. The Spartans took an untimely penalty for tripping, so Michigan essentially closed the game on the power play.
After a constant barrage of shots for about a minute, the equalizer still eluded the Wolverines. So Berenson elected to pull Hunwick and give his team a two-man advantage. The team’s power play woes aside, this one was destined to succeed.
Junior forward Kevin Lynch was standing at point-blank range when he found twine after a pass from sophomore forward Luke Moffatt and sent the game into overtime.
The win won’t show up in the CCHA standings, as it was a non-league affair. But Berenson hinted before the tournament that he has seen the GLI dictate his team’s second-half performance far too often — for better or worse. Having won four of their last five, the Wolverines see it as a springboard.
“I think we’re making strides in the right direction,” Treais said. “Winning two games here is huge going into the second half of the season. Maybe we want it more.”