Michigan prevails in shootout over Michigan State

Geoff Robinson
Special to The Detroit News

Detroit—Just hours after the death of Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, there was hockey at Joe Louis Arena.

Michigan and Michigan State took the ice at JLA for what is likely to be the final time, closing out a series that dates to 1979 and has seen the two rivals play in downtown Detroit at least once a year since 1991.

Dubbed the “Duel In The D,” the two Big Ten rivals will take their annual showdown to Little Caesars Arena starting next year.

As fate would have it, these programs weren’t going to leave “The Joe” without one more classic.

Spartans center Sam Saliba scored his second goal of the night and forced overtime with just under five minutes remaining in regulation, and after five scoreless minutes of free hockey, the “Duel” went to a shootout.

In the fourth overtime game in the last six meetings between the schools, Sam Piazza scored in the fourth round to give the Wolverines a 2-1 advantage.

After MSU’s Logan Lambdin fired wide right, Michigan celebrated a conference shootout win that officially ended in a 4-4 tie when it comes to overall records. That means the likely final game at JLA between the two teams will officially be scored as a tie, with Michigan holding a 31-20-6 advantage overall.

“This was a big game for both teams,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The great thing about playing at Joe Louis is that both schools get a chance to come out and support their team. It’s a great environment.”

It appeared early on that MSU would get the last laugh. The Spartans got off to a fast start, scoring just 36 seconds into the game when Mason Appleton took the puck off the boards and found Taro Hirose for a one-timer that beat Michigan goalie Hayden Lavigne top shelf.

Less than five minutes later the Wolverines got hit with a pair of penalties just moments apart, giving the Spartans a 5-on-3 advantage for 1 minute, 40 seconds. Appleton picked up his second assist of the night, finding Sam Saliba uncovered on the other side of Lavigne for an easy putaway.

Michigan (9-13-3, 2-7-2-2) was able to strike back, getting goals from Jake Slaker and Max Shuart to tie the game 2-2 before the first intermission. Shuart scored after skating in and firing on Spartan goalie Ed Minney, who couldn’t find the puck between his legs and allowed it to bounce into the back of the net, tying the game with just 26 seconds remaining in the opening period.

“I thought our emotional energy took a hit after that second goal,” MSU coach Tom Anastos said. “You can’t give up goals that easy. We fought back, but I think that took some emotion out of our game after we started with a lot of it.”

Chris Knudson put the Spartans (5-18-3, 1-9-2) back out in front midway through the second period by banking one in off of Lavigne.

But Michigan, who outshot MSU 31-19, kept pouring on the pressure. Moments after having a Dexter Dancs goal taken away by review because of a high-stick, Nolan De Jong went top shelf for the Wolverines to tie it up at 3-3.

De Jong’s second goal of the night gave the Wolverines a 4-3 lead less than three minutes into the third when he corralled the puck at the point and fired a wrist shot into the back of the net.

“(Tonight) was pretty exciting,” De Jong said when asked about the possibility of this being the last time these two programs meet at JLA. “To play in this rivalry and get the win is something I’ll look back on and be happy I had the chance to be a part of.”

It hasn’t been the best season for either Michigan or MSU. The two sit at the bottom of the Big Ten standings, and the only way they could meet again on the JLA ice would be in the conference tournament, which takes place in mid-March. If the standings hold true until then, both would have to win their first two tournament games to set up an unlikely showdown for the Big Ten championship.

Geoffrey Robinson is a freelance writer