Nov. 10, 2012
by Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com staff writer
EAST LANSING - For three consecutive Saturdays, Michigan State has responded to a Friday defeat by playing "its best game of the season.''
The Spartans' latest Saturday gem will long be remembered by a record Munn Arena crowd of 7,225, and MSU's forward line of sophomores Matt Berry and Brent Darnell and freshman Matt DeBlouw, among plenty of others.
MSU (4-5-1 overall, 3-3 CCHA) erupted for three goals before Saturday's game was seven minutes old, held a 4-1 edge after the first period and cruised to a stunning 7-2 victory over No. 11 Michigan.
Berry led the way with his first career hat trick and added one assist while linemates DeBlouw and Darnell each had a goal and two assists for Spartan team that lost the series opener, 5-1, on Friday in Ann Arbor.
Coach Tom Anastos loved his team's energy level, the way it competed and executed and had high praise for the crowd - students and fans - who provided the best atmosphere at Munn Arena in several years.
"The crowd had a huge impact on the performance of our team,'' Anastos said. "The players really appreciated that. Our guys were more relaxed and had more jump than we did on Friday and I think the atmosphere made a huge difference.
"There was an emotional level to our team tonight that we haven't seen this season. I think the rivalry brings that out, but the atmosphere had a lot to do with it.''
Fans were cheering 34 seconds into the game when Berry beat U-M freshman goalie Jared Rutledge to set the tone for the night. Darnell made it 2-0 on a power play at 6:36 and Hayes, on a deflection, scored 23 seconds later to put the Spartans up 3-0.
After Michigan's Boo Nieves scored on a second rebound at 7:54, MSU regained its three-goal lead on Berry's second goal at 10:42.
Four goals in one period? Not bad for a team that's struggled to score early.
"We didn't do anything different. We had a similar strategy,'' Anastos said. "We just had more jump and high emotion level. When you get a goal on your first shift, it boosts your confidence. Now, guys are attacking the net, doing the things you talk about every day, and the pucks goes in.''
Michigan (4-4-1, 2-3-1-1) cut MSU's lead to 4-2 on A.J. Treais' goal on a quick break-in at 11:52 of the second period, but Berry deflected in DeBlouw's perfect pass from the right circle for his hat trick at 15:08.
"When it was 4-2, I thought the next goal would be key and we got it,'' Anastos said. "Michigan is a team of momentum and they're never out of a game. That next goal was critical.''
With a 5-2 lead in the third period, the Spartans made it a rout on goals by DeBlouw at 4:55 and Kevin Walrod at 9:17.
Spartan freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand had an excellent game with 40 saves, including 15 in each of the second and third periods.
Rutledge and freshman Steve Racine, who took over after MSU made it 7-2 combined for 22 saves.
A week ago, in the Spartans' 6-1 win at Bowling Green, the DeBlouw-Berry-Darnell line had a standout game with three goals and seven assists.
"I think it goes back to chemistry. We're getting to know each other more and more,'' Berry said. "We're putting pucks to areas where we know the other guys are going to be. We're making smart plays in the offensive zone.''
And it's resulting in pucks in the back of the net, and fun times on the ice for three young players.
"I've been a State fan for most of my life and it's definitely huge go get a big win over Michigan and, with my performance, it feels really, really good. We never beat them this bad last year. Tonight, we played a lot better from Friday. We got pucks out of our zone.''
The Spartans continue their challenge of play top-ranked teams as they visit Miami for a two-game series next Friday and Saturday. They won't return home until Ohio State visits on Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
"It reminded me of the old days,'' Anastos said of Saturday's contest. "The uniforms, the atmosphere, the students, the energy, the rivalry. It was fun.''