Detroit — As the old adage goes if first you don’t succeed try, try again and that’s exactly what Phil Di Giuseppe did late in the third period to lead Michigan to a 2-1 victory over Michigan State Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Di Giuseppe’s backhander from just in front of the crease was stopped by MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand, but Di Giuseppe had one more chance and he flipped in the rebound with 2:18 remaining. It was his eighth and final shot of the game.
It was the 50th game played between the rivals at Joe Louis Arena, but just the first Big Ten game played between them.
Michigan’s win ended a four-game losing streak and was the Wolverines’ first victory in 52 days, since a 5-4 win at Ohio State Dec. 2.
The Wolverines (11-6-2, 3-2-0-0) will play the Spartans (8-11-3, 2-3-2-0) in a rematch tonight at Munn Arena in East Lansing.
“It was a great relief,” said Di Giuseppe of the win. “Me and Boo (linemate Cristoval Nieves) were just whacking at it and I had one whack and it hit his (Hildebrand) stick and came back to me and I thought it was going to go over the net but it went in.”
Hildebrand has been playing the best hockey of his career, entering the game on a 3-1-2 stretch the last six games with a .952 save percentage (200-of-210), including a pair of shutouts.
Hildebrand (34 saves) made a great glove save on Di Giuseppe’s drive from between the circles while the Wolverines were on the power play in the opening period. He was working on another shutout, turning aside 16 shots midway through the game when freshman JT Compher, standing just right of the crease, flipped the puck over his glove with 8:24 left in the second period for the first goal of the game.
“We were worried about how effectively we could play, playing so few games in recent weeks, but I thought we played well enough in the first period and then to get that go-ahead goal (by Compher) was huge, the first goal of the game,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, pointing out the Wolverines had played just five games since the win over the Buckeyes Dec. 2.
After Compher’s goal, it was Michigan freshman Zach Nagelvoort (32 saves) working on a shutout. He stopped the first 26 shots he faced before Joe Cox’s shot deflected off teammate Michael Ferrantino and into the net to pull the Spartans even at 6:04 of the final period, just seconds after an MSU power play expired.
Then, the Wolverines killed off an MSU power play midway through the final period and Di Giuseppe scored the winner after Hildebrand made a great save on Derek DeBlois with seven minutes left and Nagelvoort came up with a kick save on Mackenzie MacEachern a minute later.
“I thought it was a good hockey game,” MSU coach Tom Anastos said. “It was a man’s game, very physical and fast. We had some real quality scoring chance and we have to learn how to finish. Our margin of error is very thin and you can’t give people two and three opportunities to whack at the puck.
The Wolverines caught a break in the opening minute when Dean Chelios’ slapped in a loose puck, but the goal was not allowed because the whistlehad been blown by an official who lost sight of the puck.
When asked if it was a goal, Nagelvoort, who made 32 saves, replied: “Absolutely.”