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Neil's Notebook: A Second Look at the Shootout Victory

Drew Palmisano jumps against the glass in celebration of the shootout win

Dec. 11, 2011

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East Lansing, Mich. - By Neil Koepke, staff writer

Michigan State and Michigan made history on Saturday night in front of a vibrant, sell-out crowd at Munn Arena.

The Spartans and Wolverines finally played in their first shootout against each other since the Central Collegiate Hockey Association added it to break league ties starting with the 2008-2009 season.

The two teams went 18 games without a tie, going back to Jan. 26, 2008, but Saturday's series finale was deadlocked 3-3 after an exciting, five-minute overtime.

In a duel of senior goaltenders who know each other pretty well, the Spartans' Drew Palmisano got the upper hand on Shawn Hunwick of the Wolverines as MSU won the three-round shootout, 1-0, in front of a gathering of 6,886.

"In a shootout, I just try to get a good gap (on the shooter) and then try to make them make the first move and react from that,'' said Palmisano, now 3-5 in shootouts.

"We chose to go first like most teams do and put pressure on them. Hunwick made a good save on (Brent) Perlini). So I had to go out and make him make the first move. I was lucky that it hit me in the shoulder and went wide.''

Palmisano stopped all three U-M shooters - David Wolhberg, Chris Brown and A.J. Treais to clinch the shootout win and ignite a spirited celebration in front of the student section.

The other shootout hero was freshman right wing Matt Berry, who scored the only goal. After Perlini and Wohlberg were stopped, Berry started the second round by skating in and beating Hunwick with a nifty backhander to give MSU a 1-0 lead. Palmisano then made a pad save on U-M's second attempt, by Brown.

The Spartans' Greg Wolfe tried to win it to start the third round, but Hunwick made the save to keep U-M's hopes alive.

But Palmisano stopped Treais to end it and give the Spartans the extra point. The Spartan goaltender had never won a shootout by stopping three straight shots. MSU, which won its first two shootout games in 2008-09, is 6-7 in shootouts.

In overall records, the game stands as a tie, but in the CCHA, the Spartans (10-6-1, 6-5-1-1 CCHA) earn two points while the Wolverines (9-8-3, 5-6-3-1) get one. MSU, which lost the series opener 4-3 on Friday in Ann Arbor, comes away from the weekend at 0-1-1.

Palmisano, who's from Ann Arbor, made a career high eight saves in overtime to keep his team from getting swept.

"For the most part, our defense did a good job of keeping them to the outside,'' he said. "They did have a lot of shots from the points but it wasn't anything too dangerous.

"I saw everything clearly and when I did leave a rebound, (Torey) Krug or one of our defensemen was there to get the puck out of our zone.''

Palmisano made 35 saves. Hunwick stopped 32 shots.

After falling behind 1-0 early in the first period, the Spartans rebounded to take a 2-1 lead on goals by Krug at 13:07 and Chris Forfar at 15:41.

MSU dominated the second period, outshooting the visitors 20-10, but failed to convert on several good chances that would have increased their lead to two or three goals. But Hunwick was sharp, U-M survived MSU's pressure, and then tied it 2-2 on Luke Moffat's goal at 10:24.

In the third period, the Wolverines took advantage of a good bounce in the neutral zone to create a quality scoring chance and converted as Wohlberg gobbled up a rebound and fired it past Palmisano with 6:27 left.

But as they've done all season, the Spartans maintained their poise and fought back, drawing a penalty 14:23 and then taking advantage of it.

Lee Reimer deflected Matt Crandell's shot from the left point toward the net but a U-M defenseman blocked it and then tried to backhand the puck out of danger. Instead, he put it right on Reimer's stick. The MSU sophomore ripped it into the top left corner to tie it 3-3 at 16:07.

"The defenseman was kind of in the way of (Hunwick's) glove hand side so I tried to use him as a screen and that was the open shot,'' said Reimer, who is tied with linemate Mike Merrifield for the team goal-scoring lead with eight.

Krug said it was important for the Spartans to come away with the series with at least two points and start the holiday break on a fairly positive note.

"We did a good job of containing Michigan. It's a lot of fun playing them and with a rivalry game, there's a lot of emotions floating around,'' he said. "It was good to get the extra point in the shootout.

"There wasn't one guy on the bench that put their head down,'' he said of the few minutes that followed U-M taking a 3-2 lead. "The coaching staff did a great job of keeping us focused. The crowd was great and we fed off that.''

"We had another good third period. Unfortunately, they got one, but we didn't hang our heads. We fought hard the whole game.''

THANK YOU, FANS: The Spartans have been impressed by the support they've received most of the season by the fans and student section and were raving about Saturday's sellout of 6,886. The atmosphere in the building was electric and the students were loud and active with their cheers and chants.

"Our crowd was unbelievable tonight. The student section was awesome,'' Krug said. "It's fun to play in a building like that.''

MSU had two sellout crowds last season - 6,842 fans watched the Spartans beat U-M, 4-3, in overtime on Jan. 7, 2011, and 6,823 looked on as MSU upset Miami, 7-4, on Jan. 21, 2011.

SHOOTOUT STRATEGY: Spartan coach Tom Anastos, who brought the shootout to the CCHA when he was the league's commissioner, got his first taste of it from the bench and had some decisions to make.

"Matt Berry is pretty good at shootouts but we weren't sure if we should go with him to start. So, we decided to take the pressure off and go with a senior (Perlini),'' Anasto said. "It probably wouldn't have mattered.'

"He scored a nice goal on Friday in Ann Arbor and a really nice goal in the shootout tonight.''

Berry's shootout success doesn't count as a goal in the stats. He has five goals and five assists for 10 points in 16 games.

WOLVERINES SOLID: Anastos said his team played better Saturday than it did on Friday, but he also thought Michigan improved on its game and was once again a tough team to play against.

"I thought we were playing well all game, but their skill level is very high. They're a team that can change the momentum of the game,'' Anastos said. "Historically, they feed on momentum, even on the road. They played a very good road game.''

Anastos continues to be impressed by his players' resiliency.

"When we fell behind in the third period, we still had confidence. I like the poise the of our players,'' he said. "We hung together and kept working. Our power-play goal wasn't really a pretty goal. It came off a scramble but it ended up in the right spot.

"We worked hard on our power play this week and it helped us get the extra point.''

NO CHIPPINESS, FEW PENALTIES: It's unusual for a MSU-Michigan series to not have at least some chippy moments but both teams played hard and physical and with few post-whistle scrums.

On Friday, seven penalties were called and only one in the third period.

On Saturday, there were no penalties assessed in the first two periods. Five were called in the third, giving MSU two power plays and U-M one.

B<>MERRIFIELD INJURED: Spartan senior left wing Mike Merrifield fell hard into the boards in the offensive zone in the first period and suffered an upper body injury and did not return. Anastos said he did not know the extent of the injury. Merrifield is fourth in team scoring with eight goals and five assists for 13 points in 14 games.

UP NEXT: The Spartans and Wolverines will both take a holiday break for two weeks and then head for the annual Great Lakes Invitational, Dec. 29-30, at Joe Louis Arena. MSU opens the tournament against vastly-improved Michigan Tech at 4 p.m. on Dec. 29, while Michigan faces Boston College in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m.



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