DETROIT - In their annual game at Joe Louis Arena, the Michigan Wolverines snapped their five-game winless streak and avenged a Great Lakes Invitational loss to the Michigan State Spartans with a 2-1 victory Thursday night.
The game was tied at one until the 2:18 mark of the third period when Phil Di Giuseppe scored his first goal since Nov. 16 to give the Wolverines (11-6-2, 3-2-0-0 B1G) a lead they would not relinquish.
“It felt great,” the junior forward said. “I think the last four games I’ve been playing well, getting shots, and to see it go in like that, it’s a great relief. Against a team like that, our great rivals, at the Joe, it feels good.”
Di Giuseppe converted after MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand made two quick saves in front of the crease. Andrew Copp had the first opportunity but was denied by the Spartan goaltender, then Di Giuseppe was stopped but the puck came back to him and he found the back of the net for the fifth time this season.
“Me and Boo [Nieves] were just whacking at it,” Di Giuseppe said. “I had one where it hit his stick and came back to me and I thought it was going over the net but it went in.”
It was the first ever Big Ten matchup between the two rivals. The game was also the 50th time Michigan and Michigan State (8-11-3, 2-3-2-0 B1G) faced each other at Joe Louis Arena.
Michigan coach Red Berenson was pleased with the way his team performed despite having only played four games in the last month.
“I think it was huge,” Berenson said. “We were worried about how we could play having played so few games in the recent weeks.”
It was almost a disastrous start for the Wolverines as they nearly went down 1-0 early on in the game. Only 23 seconds in, Spartan forward Dean Chelios scored in front of the Michigan crease but the referees blew the play dead due to losing sight of the puck.
Berenson said that the referees got the call right on the ice.
“I think it was the right call,” the Wolverine coach said. “It was a loose puck that Zach didn’t know where it was and if they didn’t blow the whistle it would have went in. Nevertheless, goals are precious.”
Freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort, on the other hand, said that it “absolutely” should have been a goal.
“The first shot kind of trickled through me and I got a nice whistle,” Nagelvoort, who made 32 saves in the win, said. “The ref came up to me and said, ‘you owe me one there.’ I’ll take it. I got a whistle.”
The Michigan offense picked up after a slow start as Zach Hyman had a couple of solid scoring chances midway through the first. First, the junior fired a shot from the slot that hit the post behind Hildebrand (34 saves) and shortly after was denied on a shot near the crease.
Then, Hildebrand made a flashy glove save on Di Giuseppe to keep the game scoreless.
The Wolverines finally converted in the second period as JT Compher, playing with a virus, scored to put Michigan up 1-0. Compher attempted to make a pass across the crease but the puck found its way back on his stick and he put it past Hildebrand for his seventh of the season.
“It came right back on my stick and I got a lucky bounce,” Compher said. “It jumped over the goalie’s glove so it was a nice break for us.”
In the third period, the Spartans scored to tie the game at one after Mike Ferrantino tipped Joe Cox’s shot in front of the net that got past Nagelvoort.
“[The Spartans] weren’t giving you much time with the puck,” Berenson said. “Every time you got a good scoring chance they got a stick on it, they got a body on us.”
The two goalies traded saves late in the third to keep the game tied, including a Hildebrand stop on Derek DeBlois in front of the crease and a Nagelvoort save on MacKenzie MacEachern during a two-on-one opportunity.
Di Giuseppe’s goal sealed it for the Wolverines who now have confidence heading into tomorrow night’s rematch at Munn Ice Arena.
“My first game ever against State,” Nagelvoort said. “If I could go my whole career without losing to State that would be phenomenal, so tomorrow’s going to be fun.”
Compher was just looking forward to getting their first Big Ten series sweep of the year.
“Everyone’s excited for tomorrow to try and finish off the weekend strong.”