Photos by Andrew Knapik/MiHockey
By @SKubus –
DETROIT – Solid defensive play and strong goaltending from Jake Hildebrand allowed the Spartans to stifle the No. 13 Michigan Wolverines’ potent offense Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Villiam Haag and Matt DeBlouw each lit the lamp for Michigan State, while Hildebrand turned aside 29 of 30 shots, as the Spartans trumped their rival from Ann Arbor by a 2-1 final in Friday night’s “Duel in the D” in front of a sold-out crowd. Detroit Red Wings prospect and Waterford native Dylan Larkin scored his 10th of the season in the loss.
“I thought we played real hard, I thought we played hard from the start of the game to the end of the game,” Spartans head coach Tom Anastos said. “I thought with the exception of a key piece in the second period, early in the second period, I liked our game. Defensively we were very sound, we made them earn every bit of space, and that’s what we needed to do. That’s a very good, very explosive offensive team.”
For Hildebrand, it was his first victory over the Wolverines in the storied arena in three years with the Spartans.
“I don’t think I had beaten Michigan here yet,” Hildebrand said. “It was really special, especially in front of a sold-out crowd. My sister came to the game, which made it that much more special, too.”
Just 3:09 into the opening frame, Joe Cox jumped on a puck that took a weird hop off a stanchion in the Spartans zone, fed Haag on a 2-on-1, and Haag went upstairs over Wolverines netminder Zach Nagelvoort with the redirection to make it a 1-0 game.
Larkin potted his 10th goal of the season at 16:08 to knot things up at one aside. The Belle Tire product caught a puck out of mid-air inside the right circle, dropped it and fired immediately to beat Hildebrand with the shot on the far side.
“You can’t ever take anything away from Dylan’s game,” Larkin’s teammate J.T. Compher said. “He was great tonight, he’s been great all season, he competes his butt off every game, and I think he was excited to play in this building, but I think he was excited to play in the rivalry game. This is his first chance playing Michigan State and he gave it his all tonight.”
Granted he will likely never suit up for the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena with the new arena on the way, Larkin said it was stil special playing there, the first time he had since he was a member of the Lakeland Hawks as a kid.
“It was pretty cool,” Larkin said. “It was a great atmosphere. It was a tough loss, but it was a lot of fun.
“You just look around and it’s pretty cool, it’s a good feeling to play here, so there was a little excitement.”
Late in the second period, it looked like Wolverines captain Andrew Copp had his 13th of the season to give his group a 2-1 lead, jamming home a loose puck in the MSU crease, but the goal was immediately waved off and ultimately disallowed after review due to the intent of the whistle being blown. The Spartans had a delayed penalty on the play, to give Michigan a 4-on-3 powerplay that was ultimately fruitless.
After 40 minutes, the Spartans and Wolverines remained deadlocked at one, leaving the final 20 to sort it out.
Much like the opening frame, the Spartans struck early in the third period. A mere 1:58 into the period, DeBlouw tipped home a point shot that redirected off his stick before bouncing off his shin pad and in the net behind Nagelvoort. The play was briefly looked at to confirm there was no distinct kicking motion.
From there, Hildebrand and the defense stood tall to shut down any potential Wolverines comeback.
“I think we’ve just got to keep building, stick to the process,” Hildebrand said. “We’ve got three in a row now, I think we’ve just got to keep moving forward.”