If college hockey games were only 58 minutes long, Michigan State would be 3-0-0 against Michigan Tech this season. Instead, the Spartans fell to 0-2-1 against the Huskies on the year after Brent Baltus' overtime goal capped a 3-2 come-from-behind win for the Huskies to send them to tomorrow's Great Lakes Invitational championship game.
The Huskies dominated possession at even strength for the first two periods, but it was Michigan State who held a 2-0 lead heading into the final frame thanks to some strong defense and opportunistic offense. Matt DeBlouw deflected in a first period and MacKenzie MacEachern scored on the power play in the second period.
But Michigan Tech's third period come back started when Alex Gillies scored a controversial rebound goal to get the Huskies on the board. Gillies collided with Michigan State goalie Jake Hildebrand, sending Hildebrand to the ice. Hildebrand was able to stop a Mark Auk shot from the point while laying on the ice, but Gillies cleaned up the rebound for a goal. After a video review, officials determined it was a good goal.
Jake Lucchini tied the game with 1:26 remaining. Alex Gillies won a puck behind the Michigan State net and fed it out to a wide open Mark Auk. Auk passed on the shot and made a cross-ice pass to Lucchini who had a wide open net to shoot at to tie the game. It was the third time this season Michigan Tech had tied a game against Michigan State with under two minutes remaining.
With momentum on their side, Baltus finished off the come back with an overtime goal 3:59 into the first OT period. Baltus fired a slap shot from the top of the circles on a 3-on-2 rush.
The Huskies will meet Michigan in tomorrow's GLI championship. Michigan State will play Northern Michigan in the consolation game.
Notes and Thoughts:
-What an unbelievably disappointing loss for Michigan State. I've never seen such a bad team be so close to being decent, but they just haven't been able to close out games this year, including three heartbreakers against Michigan Tech.
-For two and a half periods, this looked like last year's Michigan State team. The Spartans only possessed the puck 30% of the time at even strength according to Corsi, but held a 2-0 lead. They got some great goaltending from Jake Hildebrand, blocked a ton of shots in the second period, and got a few lucky bounces that they capitalized on. It would have been a nice win to start the second half of the season if they had been able to pull this one out.
-Credit the Huskies for not giving up. They had 1:36 of 5-on-3 power play in the second period that they couldn't convert on, followed up by another power play after a silly too many men penalty on Michigan State. It looked like it just wasn't going to be their night, but they found a way to get a couple pucks through and steal a victory.
-I really thought Michigan Tech's first goal wouldn't be allowed. It didn't look like Alex Gillies made much effort to keep from running into Hildebrand, and he wasn't really pushed.
-If there's any positive for Michigan State out of this game, it's that Jake Hildebrand looked more like his old self after a bad first half of the season. Of course, that might be too little, too late for the Spartans at this point.
-It maybe wasn't obvious on TV since the Tech and Northern crowds were more seated on the near side of the arena, but there was a really impressive turnout for the first game of this tournament.