First things first, we do the Dance of Joy!
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On December 29 the Michigan Wolverines defeated the Michigan State Spartans 2-1 in the Great Lakes Invitational Championship. That victory spurned Michigan forward into a dominating 5 game winning streak with an amazing 34 goals scored. The Spartans got their revenge at Joe Louis Arena on Friday night, defeating the Wolverines 2-1 in front of a vocal, enthused crowd.
The Spartans got a strong effort in net from junior goaltender Jake Hildebrand and survived a last minute Wolverine flurry by going back to the tenet of Tom Anastos hockey, active shot blocking. After killing off a hooking penalty taken by Mackenzie MacEachern with under 3:30 to play the Spartans survived a full minute of 6-on-5 play with the Michigan goaltender pulled. With under 15 seconds to play sophomore forward Thomas Ebbing blocked two point shots in a row, the last one deflecting the puck towards the corner where the last seconds ticked off. The Wolverines offense didn't have much sustained offense and outside of the last few minutes didn't put many great back to back chance together.
The Spartans started the game off great with Villiam Haag scoring his fifth goal of the season at 3:09 of the first period. Haag tipped home a great saucer pass from Joe Cox on a 2-on-1 that beat Michigan goaltender Zach Nagelvoort over his shoulder. The pace of play was quick the rest of the period with the Spartans keeping pace with the Wolverines until a costly too many men on the ice penalty was taken. On the ensuing power play, Michigan kept great puck possession and freshman Dylan Larkin made a great individual play to tie the game at 1. Larkin knocked the puck down with his glove and let a perfect shot go to beat Hildebrand, showing why the Detroit Red Wings spent a first round pick on him last spring.
Michigan was the better team in the second period and the Spartans were fortunate to get out of the frame tied. Alex Kile hit the post off of a faceoff win and the Wolverines had a goal waived off when the referee was quick to the whistle on a puck that was loose. The whistle was blown on a delayed penalty assessed to Ron Boyd while the puck was crossing the line. It was a fortunate call for the Spartans which they took advantage of early in the third period. Just 1:58 into the final frame Matt DeBlouw made a perfect deflection of a Rhett Holland point shot into an empty net for the game winning goal. It was DeBlouw's fifth goal of the season and the junior forward has seemingly played himself into a permanent role in the iine-up on a line with MacEachern and Matt Berry.
The Spartans now sit tied with Penn State for 2nd in the Big Ten with 16 points, with one extra game played, 5 points of the pace of the Wolverines. Next weekend the Spartans will hit the road to take on the Wolverines in the Coyote Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field. The weekend after that the Spartans will host the Nittany Lions making the next two weekends incredibly important for this improving team.
Looking back at the 3 keys to success
- Jake Hildebrand- 29 saves and rock steady play. No costly rebounds given up and he was screened on the games only goal against. He has given up 2 goals in 3 games and is running away as the Big Ten's best goaltender this season.
- Cox-Ferrantino-Haag Line- Neutralized the top line of Michigan's and scored the game's first goal. A great night from this line and they were most consistent at cycling the puck and keeping pressure in the offensive zone.
- Discipline- Too many penalties and the only goal given up was on a silly too many men infraction. Need to clean play up for what will probably be a very motivated Michigan team next weekend.