DETROIT Sometimes in hockey, the pucks just don”t bounce your way.
In the final regular season meeting of the year between the Wolverines and the Spartans, the puck bounced Michigan State”s way.
About five minutes into the game, with the score tied at one, Michigan State forward Joe Goodenow dumped the puck into the Wolverines” zone. The puck took an awkward bounce as Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn tried to snag it with his glove, and it trickled into the net.
The Spartans later added a goal in the third period to finish off the Wolverines, 3-1. With the loss, Michigan is winless against Michigan State in their last six meetings (0-4-2).
Even though the loss did not hurt Michigan in the CCHA standings, Michigan coach Red Berenson was not pleased with how his team fell behind.
“This game was not a show,” Berenson said. “No matter what the implications, we didn”t come out on top and that”s the bottom line. Whether it”s CCHA points or NCAA rankings, we cannot feel good about this game.”
“We weren”t ready in the first five minutes, and it killed us,” Michigan freshman Charlie Henderson said.
The game, which was preceded by a special ceremony honoring Michigan State coach Ron Mason, who will retire at the end of this season, was characterized by defensive breakdowns and fluke goals early on.
At 1:26, Michigan”s failure to clear the puck from its zone allowed Michigan State”s John-Michael Liles to secure the puck. Liles passed it to Goodenow in the slot, who skated in and beat Blackburn for the 1-0 lead.
But Michigan retaliated promptly, as freshman Dwight Helminen won a faceoff in the Spartans” zone and passed it to Charlie Henderson for a shot. Henderson”s shot caromed off Michigan State goalie Ryan Miller and flew high into the air. The puck came down in the crease and bounced into the goal at 3:50.
But just 59 seconds later, Goodenow”s dump-in put Michigan behind for good.
“It just took a weird bounce,” Blackburn said. “I don”t know if I took my eyes off of it, but I don”t think that will happen too many times.”
Said Miller: “That bounce was unfortunate. I think there was a rut in the ice or something. I”ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.”
But it was the same story for the Wolverines. A failure to convert on its chances cost them yet another game against Michigan State.
Junior John Shouneyia had two scoring chances right in front of the Spartans” goal, but missed the net on both occasions. Forward J.J. Swistak and freshman Jason Ryznar had a two-on-none breakaway, but Swistak was unable to even get a shot off as Miller corralled the puck. In the third, Ryznar found himself alone on the doorstep staring into an open net, but let off a weak shot that Miller was able to slide over and stop it.
“You can”t win a game scoring only one goal,” Michigan freshman Eric Nystrom said. “It”s not Miller he”ll save the easy ones. We had a lot of chances, but we just didn”t put them in.”
Michigan dominated the second period and most of the third until the Spartans” third goal halfway through the third period.
Michigan State”s Mike Lalonde skated into the Wolverines zone with the puck, went right around defenseman Mike Roemensky (who finished minus-2 for the night), and sneaked one by Blackburn.
With the way things were going for Michigan, a two-goal lead seemed insurmountable.
“We don”t play 80-some games that we can just set this aside,” Berenson said. “It was a game that we came here to win, but we didn”t close.”