DETROIT — Dominic Vicari’s favorite movie is “Rudy,” which makes perfect sense. The Michigan State goalie stands at just 5-foot-9, which, for a goalie, is quite small.
But while Rudy lacked the raw ability necessary to compete at the collegiate level, Vicari showed this weekend that he’s got every tool to succeed. The sophomore made 41 saves in each game and was the unquestioned star in both ties.
“It was a game, obviously, that Vicari became a big factor in and was the difference,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after Saturday’s game. “Vicari is a player that we knew about, and we’re not surprised. And we know he’s going to play well against us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t score on him, but we weren’t able to capitalize tonight.”
Oh, and on top of it all, Vicari was getting over the flu. He didn’t practice more than 20 minutes in any of the Spartans’ practices last week. Michigan State coach Rick Comley did not even know if Vicari could play an hour before Friday’s contest at Yost Ice Arena.
Who’s his favorite basketball player, Michael Jordan?
“I don’t know if I want to (get the flu more often),” Vicari said on Friday after shutting the Wolverines out for the final two periods plus the overtime. “But I felt pretty good once the game got going. I didn’t feel too good this morning. But once I got settled in, I felt pretty good. But now I just need to get some rest and go after it tomorrow.”
He went after it all right. On Saturday, Vicari was spectacular again. He held the most lethal offense in the CCHA to just one goal in 65 minutes of nail-biting action.
“They’re the toughest team in the league to play defense against,” Comley said. “They have such talent and speed coming at you. You know they’re going to get shots on you. If you’re going to beat them or tie them, you (have to save 40-plus shots). Goaltenders are there for a reason, and good ones get it done.”
Vicari got it done under the tensest conditions — Michigan scored first in both games. Michigan forward Charlie Henderson scored an early first-period goal on Friday, and Michigan senior Eric Nystrom tallied an early second-period score on Saturday. With all the early scoring, the Spartans trailed the Wolverines for 87 of the 120 minutes played in regulation.
“When you’re playing from behind, (every mistake you make is magnified),” Vicari said. “You always want to get that first goal and relax on it a little bit, but we couldn’t do that this weekend, so we just had to battle back both games.”
Early in the third period on Saturday, with Michigan leading 1-0, Michigan senior David Moss skated in alone on Vicari. Moss deked and shot to the right, but Vicari was game and made a quick glove save.
“He made some key saves when he had to,” Michigan State captain Jim Slater said. “He was on his game. (If he continues to play like that) we’re going to go a long way. He really stepped up this weekend for us.”
Such spectacular play from Vicari isn’t all that surprising. Last season he led the CCHA with a 1.88 goals against average in conference games.
But earlier this year, Michigan got the best of him. The Wolverines scored four goals at Munn Ice Arena in Michigan’s 4-2 win over the Spartans. The next day, the Wolverines scored five at Vicari’s expense in a 5-4 Michigan win.
Comley was pleased with Vicari’s improvement.
“His numbers have been good and I think he’s played pretty well,” Comley said. “But you’ve kind of been waiting for him to get points for you. Both games this weekend — he did.”
On Saturday, Michigan squandered one of the only openings that Vicari left them. With only four seconds remaining in regulation, Nystrom sent a swift pass across the mouth of the goal to freshman Chad Kolarik. The left side of the goal was open, but Kolarik sent the puck too far right. Vicari got his blocker on it, and the game went to overtime.
“Nine out of ten times, that’s a goal,” Nystrom said. “And Chad’s buried a few on that play, but I think the puck jumped up a little bit … Vicari was there with his blocker. And he read it. He was right across, and he’s a quick goalie. It was a good save.”
One of many.