A weekend removed from a statement-making sweep against Notre Dame, the Michigan hockey team had high hopes of taking down another top-10 CCHA team, defending national champion Michigan State.
Instead, the fifth-ranked Spartans stole the show, dethroning the nation’s top-ranked team 1-0.
Michigan State scored late in the first period on a Bryan Lerg power-play goal, and was able to hold onto that lead for the rest of the game against the country’s second-ranked offense. This is the first shutout Michigan has suffered since the Spartans beat the Wolverines 4-0 nearly five years ago.
The Wolverines came flying right out of the gates to the tune of Yost’s loudest crowd of the season raining constant Spartan-mocking cheers on Michigan State. Michigan dominated possession in the early goings of the game, with Michigan State managing just a couple legitimate scoring opportunities – one of which goalie Billy Sauer kick saved, and the other hitting the left post before the junior covered the puck. Sauer finished with 27 saves in a rock solid performance.
After the opening few minutes, Michigan’s offense slowed down slightly, but the game maintained a very fast pace because of the mostly whistle-free play. Neither team was called for a penalty until freshman Ben Winnett was called for tripping with 4:23 left in the period.
But the Michigan State man advantage proved to be the difference in the game. The Spartans wrapped the puck around to Sauer’s stick side and failed to convert on a couple poke attempts before finally converting with the puck bouncing around a large Wolverine crowd in the crease. The goal was center Lerg’s 12th of the season.
Two minutes after the first penalty was called against Michigan, sophomore Steve Kampfer was called for the team’s second, but it was successfully killed. For the second consecutive game, the Wolverines went into the opening break without a score.
And just like last weekend, Michigan had a great scoring opportunity in the second period’s opening minute, but Chad Kolarik was unable to find the back of the net with his tip-in chance like Kevin Porter did with his power-play slapshot against Notre Dame.
Though Michigan State went without a penalty in the first, the Spartans were finally called for unsportsmanlike conduct (diving) nearly halfway through the second. Michigan, however, was still unable to muster a man-advantage opportunity. Freshman Louie Caporusso was called for hooking at the same time his Spartan counterpart was penalized, leading to a four-on-four situation.
But the Wolverines were able to muster a power-play chance with just over a minute left in the period. Porter deked his way through the Michigan State defense before being tripped up and getting the penalty call against the Spartans. The captain’s shot seconds into the third was the best opportunities of the man advantage, which the Spartans successfully killed.
In the third period, it was simply more missed Wolverine opportunities.
Michigan went on the power play six minutes into the third after freshman Matt Rust was cross checked in front of the goal, but instead of resulting in a man-advantage goal, it simply frustrated the goalless Wolverines even more. Junior Travis Turnbull and Spartan Chris Mueller were both called for roughing after the penalty at the end of the power play.
Later in the third with “Let’s Go Blue” chants in full swing, the puck rolled along the goalline. Sophomore Chris Summers positioned himself on the left side of the goal as the Yost crowd cheers reached a creschendo, but Summers’ – and Michigan’s – best scoring chance went inches wide of the post.
Michigan coach Red Berenson pulled Sauer with just under a minute to play, but the effort proved futile and the Spartans put an end to the Wolverines’ nine-game winning streak.
The two teams face off again tomorrow night at Michigan State.