DETROIT — It felt a bit like déjà vu.

With the puck out in front of the net and just over two minutes remaining in Saturday night’s game, time seemed to stand still as the puck floated along the crease in front of Michigan State goalie Drew Palmisano. Everyone on the ice knew that this was it.

Chaos ensued. Sticks flew. Bodies crashed.

But it was Chris Brown who got his stick on the puck, continuing to slam it at Palmisano, hoping to finally get past him.

And as his efforts came to a crescendo, the puck slid past the Spartan goalie and into the net to give the Wolverines a 5-4 lead, one that looked unlikely after Michigan State scored four unanswered goals.

The Wolverines saved themselves from a season sweep by their archrivals, probably saving their season in the meantime.

It was a fitting ending, a heroic ending, one that should’ve been fit for, say, Friday’s game, too — when the exact same thing should have happened.

As much as I hate to side with the rabid fans who can’t accept their own team’s shortcomings, Michigan lost Friday night’s game to referee Matt Shegos, not the Michigan State Spartans.

After one of the Wolverines’ more valiant comeback efforts of the year — trailing by three goals in the final half of the third period — Brown deflected the puck through Palmisano’s legs and into the goal. Lights flashed. Spartan fans reared their heads in disgust.

But Shegos, who many CCHA fans have complained leans toward Michigan (since he is a Michigan alum), jumped the gun like I have never seen before. He blew the whistle too early and singlehandedly knocked the wind out of every single Michigan fan.

The Big Ten Network knew it was a goal. The majority of the media at Munn Ice Arena knew it was a goal. And for God’s sake, when people named “Spartan Dan” comment on Michigan message boards apologizing for the call to angry Wolverine fans, that’s when you know it indeed was a goal.

Yes, it was just one loss. And yes, Michigan was outplayed for much of the game. But with a tie game and the momentum of a three-goal comeback on their shoulders, my gut says nothing is stopping the Wolverines’ in that hypothetical overtime period.

But with one blow of the whistle, Shegos took away the Wolverines’ only chance at rivalry heroism this season.

Michigan had been embarrassed by the Spartans in their first series of the year, getting swept after winning all five games against its rivals the year before. A win in Friday’s game would’ve equalized the two teams on the season.

Additionally, Spartan forward Corey Tropp — whose cheap shot on Michigan’s Steve Kampfer got him suspended for the season last year — scored two of the three game-winners against Michigan this season, rubbing salt in the already open wounds of the Wolverines’ underachieving season.

And with one whistle-less play, Michigan could have put on the hero’s cape for one night of a winter season filled with disappointment inside and out of Yost Ice Arena.

But Tropp’s goal Friday was still the game-winner. The Spartans still lead Michigan in the conference standings. And for the first time since 2000-01, Michigan State will finish the season having won the intrastate battle outright.

And because of Shegos’ blown call, this split, a decent result in the long run, hurts twice as much.

-Kartje can be reached at

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