Michigan State is eager to be part of the conversation when it comes to a regular-season Big Ten Conference hockey championship and it took a big step with a 2-1 victory at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night over rival and first-place Michigan.
After falling to the Wolverines in the Great Lakes Invitational in December, a game that didn't count toward conference records, the Spartans were out for revenge in the first of four conference matchups this season.
The winner came early in the third period when Rhett Holland fired the puck from the point and Matt DeBlouw made a play with his stick, deflecting it off his own foot and past Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort.
"(I was) just trying to put it in the net," DeBlouw said. "It was pretty lucky. It's unexplainable right now (how good it feels). Growing up you dream of having those opportunities and today was one of those moments."
The Wolverines may have been feeling a bit slighted to start the third period after having what they thought was a goal wiped away. The referee deemed that a hooking penalty and subsequent touch by the Spartans occurred in a crowded goal area prior to the puck crossing the line off the stick of captain Andrew Copp.
"We couldn't tell if he blew the whistle or not," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "Even if he didn't he can always say he meant to blow the whistle. But you can't win on that one."
Not to be outdone, Michigan state goaltender Jake Hildebrand made 12 saves in the second period to keep his team even. He racked up 13 in the third to finish the night with 29.
The night couldn't have started better for the Spartans. Just 3:09 in, Joe Cox found Villiam Haag with a pass through a sprawling defender the forward put off Nagelvoort's shoulder.
"I thought we played real hard from the start of the game," Spartans coach Tom Anastos said. "That's an explosive team. We made them earn (their) space."
Michigan struck back on the power play with just under four minutes to play in the period after MSU was called for too many men on the ice. Zach Hyman was behind the Spartans goal when he passed to freshman Dylan Larkin, who snatched the puck out of the air, placed it on the ice and fired a shot over the right shoulder of Hildebrand.
The goal was the 10th of the season for Larkin, who leads all Big Ten freshmen in points (30) and is riding an eight-game point-scoring streak.
Hyman also extended his point-scoring streak to eight games with the assist, though the senior forward's goal-scoring streak of seven straight games came to an end.
The loss ended a seven-game win streak for the Wolverines.
The two teams are off until they meet again next Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago.