There's just no denying it, the Michigan Wolverines were the better hockey team Friday night at Munn Arena. A roster stacked with NHL draft picks that has under-performed most of the season flexed their muscles against the Spartans in a 5-3 victory. The Spartans hung tough, displayed their typical heart and effort under Tom Anastos but the pressure of a B1G lead seemed to get to the young team.
The Wolverines dominated play in the first ten minutes of the game, holding the Spartans without a shot for eight minutes and taking a 2-0 lead. The Wolverines got on the board when Dexter Dancs was left alone in the slot for a one time goal past the blocker of Jake Hildebrand. The Spartans had two defenseman chase behind the net and the center didn't cover the slot leaving Michigan open for an easy goal. The second goal came on one of the strangest plays in hockey, a breakaway for a defenseman. JT Steinglein fell down while skating the puck towards the blue line and Cutler Martin skated up ice beating Jake Hildebrand through his 5-hole.
After that goal the Spartans pushed back, getting the shots on goal close to even and Ryan Keller scored his first of three goals, fighting for a rebound in front of the net. Keller was helped on the play by Wolverines' netminder Zach Nagelvoort (a common theme) as Nagelvoort lost track of the rebound and left the bottom of the net open when he stood up instead of staying in a butterfly stance.
The second period was pretty bland until a strange goal helped the Spartans tie the game back up. After tipping the puck past a defenseman Ryan Keller raced for a puck with Nagelvoort who was slow to come out of his net. Keller won the race, diving to reach for the puck and slid it into an empty net between the legs of Nagelvoort. Unfortunately for the Spartans, the Wolverines answered late in the second period when Zach Hyman fought off a defender behind the net, made a one handed pass to Dylan Larkin in front who shot once, was stopped and then gathered the rebound to shoot it past Hildebrand.
The Spartans in the third period once again got puck luck as Keller would finish off the hat trick when a pass he sent in front was tipped by Wolverines defenseman Michael Downing through his own goaltender's legs. The game would settle down with neither team wanting to make a mistake until a great individual effort by Alex Kile who fed the puck to Travis Lynch for a one time goal to push the lead to 4-3 with just over 5 minutes remaining. An empty net goal by Tyler Motte brought us to our final score of 5-3.
The Spartans will finish out the regular season at Yost tomorrow at 5:00 on Fox Sports Detroit. A win tomorrow would put the Spartans in 2nd place and allow them to receive a bye into the B1G tournament next weekend. There is still plenty for the Spartans to play for tomorrow, not to mention playing to ruin the Wolverines B1G title hopes. Minnesota took it to Penn State tonight