Dec. 29, 2012
By Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com Staff Writer
DETROIT - In the record books and on Michigan State's overall record, it will go down as a tie. But to Spartan players, coaches and fans, it felt like gut-wrenching defeat.
Just when it looked like MSU was headed for a 1-0 defeat, the Spartans rallied to tie the game with 16.4 seconds left in the third period on a goal by sophomore Matt Berry.
Suddenly, MSU was in position to pull out a dramatic victory in overtime Saturday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
Instead, after a scoreless overtime, the Spartans lost to Western Michigan 1-0 in a shootout and are relegated to playing in the third-place game in the 48th Great Lakes Invitational.
"It's definitely very depressing,'' Berry said. "We got that goal late and we thought we could get a victory out of it and move on to the final. But we couldn't finish in the shootout. That's just the way it goes.''
The 1-1 finish against the No. 7/8 Broncos was only the second tie in the history of the GLI. MSU also played in the other one - a 4-4 deadlock against Michigan the third-place game in 1981.
The Spartans (5-10-3) will play Michigan (6-10-2) at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the third-place contest. WMU and Michigan Tech meet in the title game at 7 p.m.
Michigan Tech blanked Michigan, 4-0, in the second semifinal. The Huskies will be seeking their first GLI championship since 1980.
The last time that either MSU or U-M did not play in the GLI final was in 1981, when Notre Dame beat Michigan Tech, 4-3.
Up until 2008, all GLI semifinals were decided in sudden-death overtime - 20 minute periods and as many as needed until a winner was decided. But the format was changed to avoid a semifinal going two or three overtimes and making for a long night at the rink.
"It's disappointing to lose in a shootout in a game that advances a team into the finals," MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "I don't know when this changed, but we knew the rules that that's the way it is."
It took four shooters from each team to decide the shootout.
After Jake Chelios missed the Spartans' fourth attempt, senior Mike Leone won it for the Broncos when he skated in and let go with a wrist shot that beat Hildebrand to the left corner.
Western Michigan (11-4-2) opened the scoring at 10:21 of the first period. Junior right wing Mike Cichy came out from the right corner and, as he went to slide the puck to his forehand, the puck flipped up in the air and deflected off Hildebrand and into the net.
WMU goalie Frank Slubowski didn't have to make a lot of difficult saves but he did make three that kept his team in the lead until the final seconds. He robbed Spartan freshman Matt DeBlouw in the at the edge of the crease in the second period. Slubowski finished with 22 saves.
Hildebrand, who had another outstanding game, stopped 31 shots and kept his team in the game with several clutch saves in the second period.
"The goaltending was excellent. It's very hard to get scoring chances against their team,'' Anastos said. "We're very happy with the way Jake is playing. He was excellent. I told him to shake off this shootout thing.''
The Spartans failed to convert on three power-play chances, including two in the first seven minutes of the game and one midway through the third period.
But MSU's penalty killers had a very good night, holding off five Western Michigan power plays. The Broncos had a power play in overtime when Hildebrand was called for tripping - a retaliation penalty - just 44 seconds into the extra period.
Hildebrand and the penalty-killing units came through to extend the game.
"We don't have a team compiled of offensively structured players and we understand that,'' Anastos said. "We'll go out and work hard and try to make the plays we can make.
"We don't want this to frustrate us. We'll be involved in a lot of (one-goal) games like this and we'll eventually win our share.''
Berry's tying goal was set up by a perfect pass from junior center Lee Reimer from the right corner. And Berry buried MSU's best opportunity of the night for his team-leading 10th goal.
"(Chelios) threw the puck into the far corner and Reimer went after it and just kind of spun it through to the front of the net,'' Berry said. "I was standing at the backdoor and just slammed it in.''
Berry only had one shot on goal. DeBlouw and Darnell led MSU with four shots while Anthony Hayes had three.
"I keep looking at our team maybe a little different than other people,'' Anastos said. "I look at it as a process. We have a lot of young players and I look at the experience they gained tonight.
"Western is ranked No. 7/8 in the country. Our guys competed hard. I like our progress. I focus on the good things that we can build on and at the same time address areas we have to clean up.''
Hildebrand has given up more than two goals in only one of his 10 starts. Despite, the tie and shootout loss, the rookie from Butler, Pa., was upbeat about his first GLI appearance.
"I thought we played pretty well. We battled hard, had some good chances and found a way to put the puck in the back of the net,'' Hildebrand said. "We stayed on task and came up big at the end.
"It was a great experience. The fans, the atmosphere. It was unbelievable.''