Spartans Drop Series Opener at Michigan

Published: Mar. 6, 2020 at 11:20 PM EST
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The Michigan State hockey team fell to Michigan on Friday, 3-0, in the opening game of the best-of-three Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal series between the teams in Ann Arbor. Michigan sandwiched a pair of power-play goals – one in each of the first two periods – around an early goal in the second to take a 1-0 series lead.

“We’re going to need a better effort (tomorrow),” MSU head coach Danton Cole said. “I thought in the first period we were kind of finding our legs a bit and there’s no time to do that in the playoffs. This is the end of the year and we have to know where our legs are.

“I thought in the second period we did a lot of decent things, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many shots you have, we were on the wrong side of it, which made it hard in the third.”

Consecutive Spartan penalties in a span of 43 seconds just prior to the midway mark of the opening period gave Michigan a 5-on-3. The Wolverines cashed in to take a 1-0 lead as Jake Slaker got open just off the right post and put home a pass from Will Lockwood.

The Spartans outshot the Wolverines 15-6 in the middle stanza and had a trio of power plays, but it was the Wolverines that found the back of the net.

The first UM goal of the second period came at the 2:52 mark, off a bounce in front. Following a faceoff win in the MSU end, the puck got back to Jacob Hayhurst at the right point and his wrist shot went off the skate of Johnny Beecher in the low slot and into the far corner of the net.

A late penalty to the Spartans in the second put Michigan on the power play with 10 seconds to go. Off the resulting faceoff in the MSU end, UM won the draw and Nick Pastujov was able to sneak a shot from low in the left circle past Lethemon to make it 3-0 just before the period ended.

In addition to the 15 shots on goal the Spartans had in the second period, MSU had a handful of other prime chances that just missed the net. The best opportunity came when Jerad Rosburg cut in from the point during one of the Spartans’ three power plays in the period and just pushed a shot wide of a nearly open net.

Neither team had many quality chances in the third period as MSU outshot the Wolverines, 6-5. MSU finished the game with a 25-20 edge in shots on goal.

MSU was 0-for-5 in the power play, while UM was 2-for-5.

“I thought we had a lot more energy in the second and forechecked a lot better,” Cole said. “Games are 60 minutes long, we have to be ready right from the first drop and if you’re not then your chasing the game the whole way, which is what we did.

“There are things we can point to and do better and we’ll work on that tonight and be ready for tomorrow.”

The Spartans will need to win Saturday’s game two at Yost (7 p.m.) to push the series to a decisive game three on Sunday.