By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 24, 2014
EAST LANSING — Senior defenseman Mac Bennett can dangle.
And yet Bennett’s nifty move on Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand was memorable for almost everyone but Bennett himself.
“I kind of blacked out,” Bennett said after his second goal of the season. “I don’t know what happened.”
But everyone else in the sellout crowd at Munn Ice Arena saw him put on a stickhandling display with a nifty backhand-to-forehand move for the fourth Michigan goal of Friday’s game. Bennett’s goal, one of three in the final period, lifted the 14th-ranked Wolverines (4-2 Big Ten, 12-6-2 overall) to a 5-2 win over the Spartans (2-4-2-2, 8-12-3).
Freshman forward JT Compher added two goals and two assists while senior forward Derek DeBlois recorded three points — two goals and one assist — to push Michigan back into the thick of the Big Ten title race and mark the first time a roster member has won in East Lansing.
”It's a big weekend,” Berenson said. ”We've had all this time to think about our last four games, which were all losses. All the practice time, all the meetings, what we're going to do, what have to do, and so on. And to go out and do it, that's another thing.”
DeBlois scored the eventual game-winning goal off a redirection from junior forward Brennan Serville’s shot from the right point just 51 seconds before Bennett’s tally. The assist was Serville’s first point of the season.
It was also DeBlois who gave the Wolverines their first lead of the night at 5:09 of the second period. He took a shot from an awkward angle near the right side boards where the puck bounced its way into the top-left corner.
Hildebrand, who had no idea how Deblois’s shot made it past him, was left in a daze afterwards, as he turned around, looked up, and took in the replay.
In Michigan’s own zone, what had been a struggling defensive unit stood tall by allowing only one goal at even strength all weekend.
“(It was) much better,” Berenson said. “We gave them one or two really good Grade-A chances. One in the third, Nagelvoort made the save and sure enough, we go down and score. That’s when things are going your way.”
But its lone weak spot was the penalty kill that made the anemic Spartans’ power play look like one of the nation’s better groups. Michigan State went 2-for-5 with the man advantage, despite coming into the game with a 12.9-percent success rate on the power play.
As a penalty to sophomore forward Boo Nieves expired, Michigan State got on the board first. Forward Tanner Sorenson scored off a shot from the left point in the first period that found its way to the back of the net with freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort screened on the play.
On the Spartans’ second power-play tally of the night, Nagelvoort didn’t have problems seeing the puck, but mishandled it when he was trying to cover up in the crease. Forward Mike Farrantino rushed the front of the net to jam in his own rebound and knot the scoring up at two.
Despite his miscue, Nagelvoort was brilliant at times, making 23 saves in his fourth consecutive start. None of those were bigger than when he robbed defenseman John Draeger on a point-blank, one-timer from the high slot midway through the second period with the score knotted at two.
Compher scored his first tally with five seconds remaining in the first period. Off a pass from Nieves, Compher finished with his backhand at the left circle to even the score at one.
"I thought we were moving the puck well," Compher said. "We got the puck behind their D and moved it around. We did get a few lucky bounces, but that's when you're working hard and getting the puck to the net."
Compher tallied his third shorthanded goal of the season and his final point at 13:54 of the third period to slam the exclamation point on a gratifying weekend.
Michigan came into this series with its backs against the wall and with questions whirling about the legitimacy of a fiery start to the season. Now, sitting third in the Big Ten standings with a redemption series against Wisconsin coming next weekend, the Wolverines have their defense cleaned up and a reenergized offense flowing.
“Everyone is really excited right now, and for good reason,” Bennett said. "I think we just had a good weekend and we finally got some offense going in this game too, so we're excited and we're ready to look forward."