Michigan offense stalls in shutout loss to Michigan State

By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 28, 2013

After Michigan State’s second goal midway through the third period, Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson could only pace back and forth on the bench with the same scowl on his face that had been plastered there all weekend.

The third-ranked Wolverines (10-4-2) weren’t able to salvage much pride from the 49th annual Great Lakes Invitational, losing a 3-0 decision to archrival Michigan State in the consolation game of the tournament on Saturday.

“We didn’t show anything this weekend,” Berenson said. “We didn’t deserve to.”

The Spartans (6-9-2) scored on their first shot of the game when Thomas Ebbing’s wrister took a deflection through the legs of sophomore goaltender Steve Racine. After the early goal that would eventually constitute as the game-winner, Michigan gained its footing to create several grade-A scoring chances in the first period.

“We started out pretty well, and as the game went on we got kind of flat at times,” said sophomore forward Boo Nieves. “We created chances, but we couldn’t capitalize.”

The Wolverines’ best opportunity of the evening came off a 3-on-1 in the late stages of the initial frame, but freshman forward JT Compher’s shot sailed right into the chest of goaltender Jake Hildebrand to keep Michigan State on top for good.

In the other crease, Racine stood on his head, hands and other body parts throughout much of the contest. When the Wolverines were forced to kill their second penalty of the game midway through the second period, Racine made several point-blank stops on shots coming from the high slot and directly in front of his crease to keep what could have been a lopsided affair rather close.

“He was competitive after (the first goal),” Berenson said. “He hasn’t played in awhile and he’s a good goalie.”

Added junior defenseman Mike Chiasson: “Yeah, 40 shots is too many for any goaltender. That’s not going to get the job done at any level of hockey.”

Two third-period goals proved to be too much for Michigan to overcome. Racine couldn’t do much when Matt Berry netted the Spartans’ second goal of the game on the power play. The forward stood at the left circle for several seconds without any pressure from the Wolverines’ defensemen and slipped the puck under Racine’s arm for his second goal in as many games.

Another deflection played a role in forward Brent Darnell’s shot finding its way through Racine’s legs with 7:08 remaining in the game. The insurance goal put a cap on any hope for a Michigan comeback.

An anemic offensive performance from the Wolverines in the second period — one that consisted of just five shots on goal — characterized the defeat and ultimately, the disappointing weekend. The third period wasn’t much better, with only one real scoring opportunity coming from a 2-on-1 chance where sophomore forward Boo Nieves was robbed by Hildebrand.

“It wasn’t too technical, but I got something in front of it,” Hildebrand said. "Playing against Michigan, it makes (the shutout) feel even better.”

Saturday’s loss marks the first time this season that Michigan failed to score. For an offense that had scored nine goals in its last three contests, the Wolverines had trouble just getting shots on target.

There weren’t many good records being set at Comerica Park, at least for the Wolverines. With the absence of its leading goal scorer, sophomore Andrew Copp, Michigan’s offense looked deflated and full of frustration. Still, much more was expected out of the Wolverines than they showed throughout the weekend. After Michigan State's final goal, Racine could only collapse with his head in his hands.

And by that moment, Berenson probably wanted to bury his scowl any way he could.