EAST LANSING - Michigan State may have let one slip away against arch-rival Michigan Saturday night at Munn Arena. The Spartans tied the Wolverines 2-2 in one of the most entertaining college hockey games this season.
"It's obviously very disappointing," said Spartan senior Dan Vukovic. "We thought we deserved four (points). We didn't get it so maybe next time we have to do something a little bit better."
Despite out-shooting Michigan 10-3 in the opening frame, the Spartans still found themselves tied at zero thanks to excellent goaltending by Wolverine net minder Billy Sauer.
The Spartans would fall behind seven minutes into the second period when Wolverine freshman Max Pacioretty took Chad Kolarik's pass in the high slot and beat Spartan goalie Jeff Lerg glove side for a power play goal. The goal was the first Lerg had allowed in more then 191 minutes, dating back to last Friday. It was also the first power play goal MSU had allowed in 32 chances.
Following that goal, the Spartans were out-worked by the Wolverines until the fourth line of Zak McClellan, Kurt Kivisto, and Andrew Rowe was able to swing momentum in favor of the Green and White.
Aside from dominating the Wolverines physically, the Spartans fourth line was able to draw Michigan defensemen Mark Mitera into a tripping penalty, giving the Spartans a power play half way through the second period. Just 27 seconds later, Michigan freshman Matt Rust was whistled for slashing, giving the Spartans a long 5-on-3 power play.
Michigan State would not take long to capitalize. Just ten seconds into the 5-on-3, Vukovic let a blast go from the blue line that found its way through traffic and past Sauer to tie the game at one.
Then, 46 seconds later, the Spartans struck again on the remainder of their power play when Tim Crowder let a wrister go from the right circle that beat Sauer, giving the Spartans a 2-1 lead.
Later in the period, Michigan State failed to capitalize on a 4-on-1 break. Defensemen Mike Ratchuk could only ring a shot off the crossbar, leaving the game at 2-1 after two periods.
The Wolverines opened the third period with a flurry that included Hobey Baker candidate Kolarik hitting the right post with a wrist shot less then a minute into the final frame.
The Spartans weathered the storm, though, and when Ratchuk later let a shot go at the other end of the ice to beat Sauer, it looked momentarily as if the Spartans would take a commanding two-goal lead. After review, however, it was clear the shot hit the right post and never crossed the goal line.
With less then two minutes left, Michigan charged into the attacking zone, creating a scramble in front of the Michigan State net that resulted in the puck careening off Spartan forward Matt Schepke's glove and into the net to tie the game at two. Michigan State coach Rick Comley protested the goal, claiming Ratchuk was cross-checked. But veteran referee Matt Shegos upheld the goal to send the game into overtime.
"Well, obviously Ratchuk got cross-checked and there should have been a penalty," Comley said. "And then we knocked it in our own net"
The overtime session was dominated by Michigan State, but they were unable to solve Sauer despite out-shooting the Wolverines four to zero.
The Spartans leave the weekend having gained two points on Michigan in the CCHA standings and are now firmly in third place with ten games to go in the season. The Spartans will return to action next weekend with a pair of games at home against Nebraska Omaha.
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