Nov. 26, 2011
East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State got another impressive performance from goaltender Drew Palmisano (35 saves) and a goal and an assist from senior Mike Merrifield to earn a 4-4 tie with No. 2/3 Minnesota on Saturday evening at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans, now 8-5-1 on the season, are 7-2-1 over their last 10 games, and are now 4-1-1 in non-conference games this season.
"Tonight's game was a lot of fun to play," said head coach Tom Anastos. "It was up-tempo, and we were generating chances. Those types of games are fun to play in. I think we had some chances there at the end that we maybe could have gotten a win. But the one thing we told our players - we are not going to just lay back and play a prevent defense. We want them to attack - be responsible, but let's try to win the game.
"I think that what we're seeing is that our players are believing in themselves and the system that we're asking them to play," added Anastos. "They are doing what we are asking them to do, but I think that they are seeing the results, and the progress that we are making."
The Spartans jumped on the board first once again, at 11:49. Greg Wolfe carried the puck over the blueline with Mike Merrifield trailing, and Merrifield streaked into the left circle. He redirected the feed from Wolfe netward, and a crashing Brock Shelgren got it past Kent Patterson as he was being hauled down by a defender. It was the only scoring of the period, despite each team having a power-play chance in that opening frame.
The Gophers got the equalizer at 4:39 of the second period. Two players from each team were tied up on the left wall, and Greg Wolfe was able to pop it loose. Wolfe was tripped as he went after the loose puck, leaving it there at the top of the left circle for Ben Marshall. Marshall picked it up, took a stride, and shot through traffic, beating a screened Palmisano over his left shoulder.
The Spartans got the goal back at 10:39. Greg Wolfe had the entry shot from the right point, which was collected by Merrifield in front. He pulled it to his backhand and put the puck over the left leg of Patterson. Four minutes later, Matt Crandell's blast from the left point made its way through traffic and beat Patterson blocker-side for the two-goal MSU advantage.
With 4:20 remaining in the period, the Gophers got their second power play chance of the night, and converted their first man advantage goal of the weekend. After MSU weathered an early scramble - Torey Krug made a nice goal-line stop on leading Gopher scorer Nick Bjugstad - Eric Haula was able to put back a Bjugstad rebound with a sharp-angle shot from the right side that made it under the glove of a diving Palmisano. The Spartans held off the Minnesota attack for the remainder of the period, and took a 3-2 lead into the dressing room.
Early in the third period, the Spartans were buzzing in the offensive zone, and just missed padding the lead when Torey Krug's shot from the hashmarks rung the left post. On the ensuing shift, Chris Forfar had a nice chance on a wraparound attempt, which Patterson gloved at the left post.
Shortly thereafter, the potent Gopher power play, which the Spartans had controlled nicely on Friday, got its third chance of the night, and tied the game as the penalty expired. With Tim Buttery in the box after being whistled for tripping on a Gopher breakaway attempt, Minnesota had an apparent goal called off early in the man advantage, but got one that would hold up as the penalty expired to knot the game at three. It was Zach Budish at the left post for the Gophers, who netted his fourth marker of the season.
Minnesota took its first lead of the weekend at 7:10. The talented freshman Kyle Rau was stationed in front, and put a point-blank shot on Palmisano that the goalie saved, but Rau was there with the putback shot that snuck between Palmisano's pads for the Gophers' fourth goal of the night.
It didn't take long for the Spartans to get the goal back - the game was tied at 4-4 on a supreme individual effort by Daultan Leveille. Brent Darnell sent a nice lead pass into the neutral zone to spring Leveille on a breakaway. Leveille deked forehand-to-backhand then back to his forehand, and beat Patterson for his second goal of the season.
The Spartans had to kill a penalty over the final 30 seconds of regulation and into the overtime period, but managed that kill well. The overtime period featured scoring chances for both teams, as Matt Berry and Leveille both had good looks in the waning minutes, and the game ended on a shot by Jake Hansen that was stopped by Palmisano.
The Spartans will return to CCHA action next weekend, hosting Bowling Green in a two-game set. Nine of MSU's next 10 CCHA games will be played at Munn Ice Arena, as the Spartans will host Michigan in a home-and-home in the final weekend of pre-holiday action, then welcome Miami, Northern Michigan, and Lake Superior the first three weeks of January.