EAST LANSING – Final score: Michigan State 5, Michigan 3, referees 2.
In a game in which fans saw the Spartans build a 4-1 lead and Michigan freshman Jeff Tambellini bring the Wolverines back from the dead, it was two controversial calls by the officiating crew that ultimately decided the game.
At 8:14 of the second period, Tambellini drove in on Michigan State goaltender Matt Migliaccio from the blueline without a soul around him. With the score 2-1 in favor of the Spartans, Tambellini – who ended up with four goals on the weekend – was almost a lock to score on the breakaway. But away from the play, Michigan senior captain Jed Ortmeyer was called for interference, stopping Tambellini halfway between the blueline and the Michigan State goal.
“(The referee) said I got in his way,” Ortmeyer said. “I felt like I was trying to get out of his way, and he grabbed on to me and fell down … it was a good play on his part, I guess.”
With just over three minutes of time left to play in the second frame, the Wolverines were attacking from the left side when Michigan sophomore Charlie Henderson ripped a shot at Migliaccio. The puck stuck to the chest of the goalie, prompting the referee – who could only see the back of Migliaccio – to blow the play dead. The quick whistle proved to be costly as Migliaccio never even saw the puck trickle off his jersey and onto the ice where one quick pass set up Ortmeyer for a wide-open goal. The Wolverines began to celebrate, but their jamboree was cut short as the ref came in waving the goal off. All Ortmeyer and the Wolverines got was an apology as they remained a goal down.
“It’s a judgement call, (the referee) said he felt bad about it, but he’s gotta make a decision – right or wrong,” Ortmeyer said. “We can’t do anything now, he made the call and we have to live with it.”
So instead of going into the third period up 3-2, Michigan remained down 2-1. And that’s all the momentum the Spartans needed to seemingly close out the game. The first nine minutes of the final period appeared to be one giant powerplay for Michigan State, as the Wolverines struggled to clear the puck. Just 2:20 into the period, Spartans forward Jim Slater redirected a shot by John-Michael Liles – who had Michigan State’s first two goals – through the five-hole of Michigan goaltender Al Montoya. Six minutes later, defenseman Corey Potter ripped a shot from just inside the blueline to give Michigan State a three-goal lead.
The fans at Munn Ice Arena all erupted and began to shout incoherently at the Michigan fans who bought “standing room only” tickets. The pains of being embarrassed in football and upset in basketball were now starting to go away for the bandwagon jumping Michigan State faithful. But Tambellini wasn’t about to let the Spartans leave without a fight.
Thanks to a slashing penalty on Nenad Gajic – brother of Michigan’s Milan – the Wolverines found themselves on a powerplay at the 9:21 mark of the third period. Eighteen seconds later, Ortmeyer passed the puck from the left faceoff circle across the ice to a waiting Tambellini. The freshman put his 21st goal of the season by Migliaccio when his shot deflected off the leg pads of the diving Michigan State goaltender into the net. After the goal, the Wolverines won the faceoff, prompting freshman defenseman Danny Richmond to find Ortmeyer at the blueline for a slap shot. The attempt on net bounced off Migliaccio to a streaking Tambellini, who put the rebound by the goalie and cut the lead to one with 10:01 to play. The goal prompted a rendition “Hail to the Victors” from the concourse area.
“We got a nice lead 4-1 and they got two quick ones on us again and turned it into a barn-burner,” Michigan State coach Rick Comley said. “I’ve been ne