EAST LANSING The Michigan hockey team was 47 seconds and one clearing of the puck away from exiting Spartan Stadium with an upset victory over its arch-rival Michigan State, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
As the third period clock rolled under one minute, the Wolverines held a 3-2 advantage over the Spartans, who pulled junior goalie Ryan Miller to set up a 6-on-5 desperation attempt to tie the game.
Down one man, Michigan failed to clear the puck, thanks to the awareness of Michigan State junior defenseman Brad Fast, who held the puck in the zone, and fired it at Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn. A scramble for the rebound ensued, and was finally controlled by Spartan freshman forward Jim Slater, who put the puck in the only place it could have gone to score his first collegiate goal, tying the game at three apiece.
“I wanted to celebrate a little more,” said Slater, who was corralled by senior captain Adam Hall after putting the puck past Blackburn.
“It was just a scramble,” Hall said. “I told Brad Fast that he looked like (a pro) out there. I”ve never seen such poise from a college hockey player in my life. On the offensive blue line, the way he kept his head up and saw the entire play he kept the puck in numerous times.”
After the shock of having its apparent victory stolen in the final minute, Michigan was forced into a five-minute sudden-death overtime to decide the game. With the help of some tremendous saves by Blackburn, the Wolverines kept the game knotted at three, and walked away with one point in the CCHA standings, if nothing else.
“It”s never okay to tie against Michigan State,” Michigan junior forward Mike Cammalleri said. “We put a good effort forth and that”s what we”re proud of. We”re proud of the heart, determination and character that we showed.”
“Nobody hung their head when they scored the goal, and we knew we still had a shot to win the game,” Michigan sophomore defenseman Andy Burnes said. “We weren”t going to let them win the game.”
Twenty-two seconds into the first period, Michigan junior Jed Ortmeyer was called for tripping. One minute later, Burnes was called for slashing, setting up a two-man advantage for the Spartans.
The Wolverines killed the three-on-five, but were unable to hold Michigan State scoreless. Shortly after the first penalty expired, Hall skated free and slid the puck past Blackburn for the first goal of the game.
Michigan State”s second goal of the game was very similar to its first. After a charging penalty on Michigan freshman forward Michael Woodford, Burnes was called for his second slashing penalty of the game both giving the Spartans a two-man advantage midway through the third period. This time, Michigan State took advantage of the three-on-five, as freshman defenseman Duncan Keith shot the puck past Blackburn from the point, tying the game at two.
“I thought they were questionable calls,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson in regard to the two slashing penalties called on Burnes. “I was really surprised that they were called. The first one he didn”t even slash the guy he just put his stick over his shoulder and actually got the puck off him. It may have been a slash from the ref”s point of view, but from where I was standing they were both questionable calls.”
“It was about my first shift of the game,” Burnes said. “You come out, your emotions are flying, you”re so intense, so into the game. The first one, maybe I did, but you hate to see that happen. It”s a bad feeling for yourself. The second one wasn”t a penalty at all. Especially when you”re already one man down and he calls it.”
Michigan can thank one line combination for its scoring Ortmeyer, Cammalleri, and freshman forward Jason Ryznar.
Ryznar tied the game at one at the end of the first period, after Cammalleri won the faceoff in the Michigan State zone. Cammalleri tallied the final two goals for Michigan both momentarily giving the Wolverines the lead at 2-1, and again at 3-2. He was a step ahead of Miller the entire game.
With eight freshmen suiting up for both teams, there were a lot of kinks to be worked out before playing the first game. Michigan State coach Ron Mason felt that his team was in a different situation than Michigan in preparing for this game.
“I think there was a lot more pressure on us to win this game simply because it was played in our own barn,” Mason said. “Our kids had to live with it all week long maybe more than Michigan did. We”ve kind of changed our philosophy this year, so we”re doing a lot of things differently Michigan”s still playing the same style they always did. They just reload and away they go.”