Dec. 28, 2013
DETROIT - An early lead and 29-save performance from goaltender Jake Hildebrand helped the Michigan State hockey team shut out third-ranked Michigan, 3-0, on Saturday afternoon in the Great Lakes Invitational Consolation Game at Comerica Park. Thomas Ebbing's goal at 1:23 of the first period stood as the difference as the Spartans improved to 6-9-2 on the season.
"Our objective for the weekend was to accomplish two things; win the tournament and to take a step forward and get better, and I thought we did that today," said MSU head coach Tom Anastos. "I thought we made progress in all areas of our game."
MSU consistently created scoring opportunities throughout the game and outshot the Wolverines, 40-29.
"We were playing hard and were trying to get pucks in deep and to the front of the net," said junior winger Matt Berry. "The ice was a lot better today, so we wanted to stick with the same plan (as yesterday) and get as many shots to the net as we could."
A night after making 41 saves, Hildebrand posted another strong effort as he got his first shutout of the season and third of his career.
"Getting a shutout always feels good for the goaltender, but I think it's a result of how the team played tonight," said Hildebrand. "Guys were blocking shots, the penalty kill was really good and we played most of the game in their zone. It was definitely a team effort."
Ebbing gave MSU the all-important early lead on his first shift of the game. The freshman picked up steam through the neutral zone and drifted to his left as he crossed the Michigan blue line. He then fired the puck to the far side of the net, beating Wolverine goaltender Steve Racine.
Michigan countered with its best scoring chance of the first period on a broken play in the neutral zone that resulted in a 3-on-1. But defenseman RJ Boyd dropped down and took away the passing lanes and the Wolverines failed to get a shot on goal on the play.
Both teams traded quality scoring opportunities through the first five minutes of the second period. Michigan's Kevin Clare rang a shot off the post from the slot, while Mackenzie MacEachern followed by nearly beating Racine on a semi-breakaway.
Michigan State kept the pressure on the Wolverines, keeping the puck in the zone for nearly an entire power play in the first half of the period. Berry missed jamming home a rebound from the left side and was later stopped from point-blank range on the doorstep.
Another power play in the later stages of the second period gave MSU even more chances. Villiam Haag, who earlier in the period rang a shot off the cross bar, had a pair of chances in close, but each shot he directed toward the net went just wide.
In all, MSU fired 17 shots on goal in the second period.
With MSU clinging to a one-goal lead to start the third period, Hildebrand again stepped up. In one of Hildebrand's best saves of the night, he stretched to his left on a 2-on-1, stopping Cristoval Nieves on the right side of the crease just over a minute into the third period.
After failing to convert on the man-advantage in its previous three attempts, the Spartans got another power play opportunity just over five minutes into the third and Berry scored to give MSU a two-goal cushion.
Berry got the puck from Jake Chelios near the left circle and ripped the it past Racine with three seconds remaining on the power play to put the Spartans ahead, 2-0.
Brent Darnell sealed the win at the 13:52 mark of the third period when he beat Racine with a wrist shot from the slot. Darnell threw the puck through the legs of a Wolverine defenseman and it found its way under the pads of Racine to make the score, 3-0.
"I think tonight was an important step forward in us becoming a better team," said Anastos.
MSU will be off next weekend and return to action in Big Ten play on Jan. 10-11 at Ohio State.