EAST LANSING — Friday night, the Michigan hockey team embarrassed Michigan State, 5-1, in the two teams’ first meeting of the season.
But when the Wolverines found themselves trailing 3-0 just 6:49 into the opening frame of Saturday’s series finale, it was evident that they’d be the ones getting outworked, and they eventually fell, 7-2.
“You knew they would come out harder and play better, but I didn’t know that we would come out so poorly,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.
Unlike the series opener, when the Wolverines built an early lead, the Spartans wasted no time showing Saturday would have a different feel to it. Just 34 seconds into the game, Spartan forward Matt Berry found himself with the puck all alone in front of Michigan goaltender Jared Rutledge. Berry managed a couple dekes to keep Rutledge guessing, before roofing the puck for the opening tally.
It was a swift opening statement, a crowd-igniting tally that sent a message to Rutledge, who started both games of the series, and the Michigan defense that they weren’t leaving with a win.
But it wasn’t enough for Michigan State — the Spartans continued to set the pace, playing most of the first period in the Michigan zone.
The deficit doubled to 2-0 when Spartan forward Brent Darnell tapped in a puck right after a 5-on-3 power play expired that Rutledge couldn’t quite reach across the crease.
Before the PA announcer at Munn Ice Arena could announce the second tally, Michigan State scored again on a late-arriving Michigan defense, this time off a one-timer, to make it 3-0 just seven minutes into the game.
Boo Nieves finally got the Wolverines on the board during a man advantage later in the period. In rapid succession, freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba and junior forward Luke Moffatt missed shots from the bottom of the slot, only to have the puck skirt out to Nieves who eagerly slammed it home to cut into the deficit.
Berry scored his second of the night on a Spartan power play off a loose puck near the crease. The period ended with Michigan State leading 4-1.
In the second period, Michigan came out with significantly more firepower, but couldn’t capitalize on an early power-play opportunity.
The Wolverines finally opened the period’s scoring at the 11:52 mark when junior defenseman Mac Bennett sailed a perfect pass from blue line to blue line. Senior captain and NCAA goals leader A.J. Treais was on the receiving end of Bennett’s pass, and finished to pull Michigan to within two.
But Berry completed the hat trick, his first of his career, just minutes later on a Spartan odd-man rush to extend the Michigan State lead to 5-2, which is how things stood at the second intermission.
The Wolverines outshot the Spartans, 16-6, in the second frame, but faced the same-sized deficit they had overcome last weekend at Northern Michigan to salvage a shootout win.
As the third period wore on during Saturday’s game, it became clear that there wouldn’t be a comeback for the Wolverines.
Five minutes into the frame, star Spartan freshman Matt DeBlouw ripped a one-timer from just inside the point past Rutledge to make it 6-2.
Michigan State added one more on a goal from senior forward Kevin Walrod to close out the scoring and seal the 7-2 blow-out win over Michigan.
After Rutledge’s stellar performance in net the night before, Berenson opted to ride the hot hand, but Rutledge, and the defense in front of him, paled in comparison to the thrashing they delivered only one night prior.
“We had no battle on this team tonight,” Berenson said. “And they just took over the game.”