DETROIT As the final horn sounded Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, a dejected Scott Matzka simply couldn”t take it any longer.
As he skated by two Michigan State fans holding up a banner that read “Go State,” the senior delivered a wicked two-hander that shook the glass divider and startled the would-be celebrators.
It was the most anyone could do for the Spartans, once again, got Michigan”s goat. The Wolverines fell to Michigan State 4-2 on Saturday night after tying the CCHA”s then-last-place team, Notre Dame, the prior night at Yost Ice Arena, 4-4.
It was Michigan”s second loss in three tries against Michigan State this season, and the timing couldn”t have been worse. The Wolverines are all but eliminated in their quest to usurp the Spartans for the CCHA regular season title.
Afterward, Matzka was asked if it was the worst loss of the season.
“Because of the timing of it, yeah,” the assistant captain said. “We”ve lost some games this season that we would love to have back and if we could, this game wouldn”t be such a killer.
“It”s been such an up and down season for us. At this point, it”s a huge loss.”
The loss drops Michigan six points back of Michigan State with three games left for both teams. The Spartans would have to drop their three remaining games and lose by three goals in their final regular season meeting on March 1 for the Wolverines to have a shot at the title.
“They”re a good team, they played well and they scored the goals they needed to score,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said of the Spartans. “They didn”t give us much and we didn”t earn much they were the better team on the game.”
Michigan State started the scoring with two minutes left in the first period on a fluttering backhander by Andrew Bogle from the left circle that eluded goalie Josh Blackburn glove-side for the lead going into the first intermission. Blackburn appeared to be screened by the Spartans” John Nail on the shot.
Craig Murray brought the Wolverines back at the 4:26 mark of the second period, directing a rebound past Michigan State”s Ryan Miller for the powerplay goal and a 1-1 score. Replays showed Miller making the initial save on Murray”s shot, then defenseman Jon Insana knocking the rebound in with his knee.
What followed was a period of physical, fast-paced hockey before Michigan was dealt two crucial blows at the period”s end.
Forward Josh Langfeld got his right knee caught underneath Michigan State forward Adam Hall and slid into the left corner of the offensive zone in intense pain with under two minutes left in the period. Langfeld sustained a bruise to his knee and is out two to four weeks.
During the penalty, defenseman Jeff Jillson took a roughing penalty. On the ensuing powerplay, Hall tipped a Brian Maloney pass by Blackburn stick side for the 2-1 lead and momentum swing.
Four minutes and 15 seconds into the third period, Hall and Maloney struck again, this time on a shorthanded 2-on-1. Blackburn stopped Maloney”s initial shot, but Hall slammed the rebound into a wide-open net for the 3-1 lead and the clincher. Maloney added another goal and Matzka scored with 41 seconds left.
On Friday, Michigan held a two-goal lead as late as six minutes into the third period before Notre Dame”s David Inman and Brett Lebda scored to put Notre Dame back on par at 4-4. Michigan fired a bevy of chances on Notre Dame goalie Tony Zasowski but to no avail.
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