DETROIT Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, 19,618 fans witnessed a college hockey game that they will likely not soon forget.
It was a back-and-forth thriller one of those games that people sometimes say should end in a tie to save anyone from having to suffer the fate of losing.
But with 1:57 left in overtime, when Michigan”s Andy Hilbert put the puck through Michigan State goalie Ryan Miller”s five-hole, the Michigan fans were laughing at those earlier thoughts and celebrating their team”s 4-3 victory over the hated Spartans.
“I”m so tired right now, I couldn”t believe it,” Hilbert said after the same play that Miller stonewalled at 7:30 in the first period found its way past the sophomore goaltender the second time around. “I just got mauled by everybody and I was on the ground and I really couldn”t do anything I was so excited.”
With the win, No. 7 Michigan moved to 13-4-2 in the CCHA, 19-6-4 overall now only three points behind the first-ranked Spartans (14-2-3, 21-2-4).
The matchup had all the pregame hype that an intra-state rivalry should. It featured a goalie in Miller that hadn”t given up a goal in 207:12. It had a Michigan State team that hadn”t lost in its last 23 outings and had played the best defense in the nation.
And it had a Michigan team desperate to stay in position to take the conference crown in the waning days of the CCHA season.
“Two good teams you look forward to games like this,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “You have a good feeling about your team when you walk out with a victory.
“I thought the teams played with a lot of discipline and a lot of respect as well as a lot of intensity. I think it”s great that we have two great programs in the state of Michigan that can fill a building like this and give you a hockey game like that.”
With Michigan trailing 1-0 and Michigan State”s John Nail skating out of the penalty box, senior Josh Langfeld ended Miller”s streak at 229:29 thwarting the chance for the goalie”s fourth-straight shutout.
Miller”s next scoreless streak didn”t last quite so long only 10:29 as John Shouneyia took the puck from the blue line and deked past the Spartans” John-Michael Liles to beat Miller and put Michigan ahead 2-1.
“It”s just another goal,” Miller said of ending his streak. “I don”t go out every night thinking, “Hey, shutout time.” Four goals tonight I”m human. What can I say. I”m not too happy now.”
Unlike last weekend”s game at Western Michigan, when the Wolverines trailed throughout before coming back for the tie, there was never an extended stretch on Saturday when one team was in complete control.
After Michigan took the lead, Troy Ferguson and Jon Insana reclaimed the advantage for Michigan State by the end of the second period.
Insana”s goal came with only 57 seconds remaining in the second, as he sent a wrist shot that somehow trickled through Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn”s legs.
“It was disappointing, disheartening,” Berenson said. “You”re back in the game and then you give up a weak goal. He”s been such a stronghold for our team that I don”t think anybody gave it a second thought, except we”ve got to get that one back.”
They did, as Mike Cammalleri scored 1:14 into the third, tying the game. Hilbert assisted on the goal to extend his point-scoring streak to 16 games.