Ding Ding Ding let round one begin!
The Michigan State Hockey team faced off against the Michigan Wolverines in the first game of a five round season bout between the two teams. Round one had third place for the 52nd annual Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena on the line and it was the Wolverines coming out victorious 5 to 4 in overtime.
Both Michigan and Michigan State decided to switch goaltenders from their semi-finals games. The Spartans gave Ed Minney a break and had freshman John Lethemon in between the pipes for his fourth start of the season. Michigan gave freshman Hayden Lavigne a rest to put in their senior net-minder Zach Nagelvoort for his sixth start of the year.
In their semi-finals games scoring was hard to find as the Wolverines and Spartans combined for just one goal between them. That was not the case in the fire period in their matchup as the flood gates opened.
The Wolverines found the scoreboard first and they did so by exploiting Michigan State’s problems killing penalties. The Spartans gave up their fifth goal in the GLI, all while being a man down, when Wolverines forward Tony Calderone found a puck that Lethemon couldn’t corral and buried it in the back of the net to put Michigan up 1-0, four minutes into the game.
The Wolverines doubled up their lead just three minutes later in a single-handed effort by Wolverines forward Will Lockwood, who went coast to coast, skated into the slot, and fired a wrist shot over the blocker-side shoulder of Lethomon for his seventh goal of the season, and the wolverines were cruising.
The Spartans were able to fight back against the early surge from the Wolverines thanks to forward Logan Lambdin. Lambdin skated down the left side and fired a shot to beat Nagelvoort near-posted for his third goal of the season and drew MSU back within one, 2-1.
The Wolverines found the net for their third time in the first 10 minutes of the game when forward Alex Kile poked a puck past Lethemon while a scrum of players blocked his vision of the puck. Kile’s goals was his fourth of the season and the Wolverines led by two yet again, 3-1.
Both teams were scoreless in the second period until Alex Kile found the back of the net for the Wolverines for the second time of the game with six minutes remaining in the frame. Michigan defenseman Sam Piazza put a wrist shot towards the goal and Kile stepped in front of Lethemon to tip the puck into the back of the net. The goal would be reviewed for a possible goalie interference but the refs confirmed the call on the ice to give the Wolverines a 4-1 lead.
Also in the second period Michigan State lost forward JT Stenglein to injury when a slap-shot hit I’m in the leg and he struggled his way to skate off of the ice. Forward Connor Wood also left for the locker room in the period after taking a huge hit from Wolverines defenseman Nicholas Boka that sent Wood flying into the air and landing hard on the ice. Both Stenglein and Wood were able to return to the game.m
The Spartans were able to make it interesting in the third period.
MSU began their comeback attempt seven seconds into the third period. It was right off of the opening face-off that forward Mason Appleton came into the Michigan zone with a breakaway and buried his shot past Nagelvoort for his second of the tournament to inch the Spartans closer at 4-2. Appleton also increased his team leading goal total to eight on the season.
With 15 minutes remaining in the game the Spartans drew within one when Carson Gatt fired a wrist shot over the glove-side shoulder of Nagelvoort from the slot after an initial save from the Wolverines net-minder. Suddenly all of the momentum shifted to the players wearing the green and white as MSU trailed 4-3.
MSU finished the comeback with two minutes remaining in the game, on their 40th shot on goal, when JT Stenglein found the back of the net for his third of the season and tying the game at 4-4.
The Spartans and Wolverines headed to overtime. This is the second straight year that MSU has played in an overtime game at the GLI, losing to Northern Michigan in the 2015 third-place game 2-1.
With two minutes remaining in the game Wolverines forward Tony Calderone charged the net and tipped in a shot past Lethemon to seal the victory for the Wolverines 5-4. The goal would go under review and again the refs confirmed the call on the ice to give Michigan the third-place title and Calderone’s second of the game.
With the loss Michigan State placed fourth in the GLI for a sixth time and their record in GLI games falls to 50-35-3.
With the loss the Spartans have lossed five straight games.
With the loss John Lethemon remains winless on the season with his record now falling to 0-4. After a very sluggish start Lethemon found his stride and finished with 33 total saves.
The Spartans and Wolverines will meet again on Jan 20 at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor.
Michigan State will continue Big Ten conference play with a weekend series in Madison, Wisconsin against the Badgers on Jan 6-7.