Michigan State fared a bit better than Michigan at the College Hockey Showcase as the Spartans (5-6-4, 2-4-3 CCHA) lost to Wisconsin Friday night, but tied Minnesota the following night in a pair of games at Munn Ice Arena.
"I thought it was really good how we battled back tonight, we definitely leave the building feeling better about ourselves," MSU head coach Rick Comley said after the Minnesota stalemate. "Through this whole stretch, I think the effort has been there and I was encouraged by how we played with top 10 teams both nights. I think we are starting to get our game back."
Friday night, junior captain Drew Miller scored in the final second of the first period before Wisconsin roared back with three goals in the second half of the third period for a 3-1 win. Jeff Lerg made 18 saves in the loss. Wisconsin captain Adam Burish, like he did against Michigan, came up with the game-winner.
"That's a tough team to play against," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "We don't play against another team like that in our conference. They trap and it's tough play against. There's no space, there's no time, you turn the puck over, and it's a slugfest."
"A couple of guys stepped up in the locker room after the game and said they were sick of this, we haven't won in seven or eight games," MSU forward Chris Mueller (pictured above) said. "I think it is time for everyone to look at themselves in the mirror. We played well for 40 or 50 minutes, we were energetic. Then for 10 minutes, they played desperate hockey and took it to us."
Against Minnesota, Dominic Vicari stopped 32 shots in the 2-2 tie that saw all four goals scored in the opening 20 minutes.
Tyler Howells and Tim Crowder potted MSU's goals with Howells' proving to be the game-tying goal at 15:29 of the opening period. Danny Irmen scored both for Minnesota while Phil Kessel picked up two assists.
"Everybody really stepped it up," Miller said. "Chris Mueller and the defensemen blocked some shots. Even the guys on the bench, they were yelling and being real positive. We worked really hard on that this week and to have that kind of success in a game like this is big for us."
The Spartans remain winless in their last eight contests (0-5-3), the longest such mark since the 1980-81 season. That year MSU dropped seven of eight contests, managing just one tie, during a late season span from Jan. 23, 1981 to Feb. 14. It was current athletic director Ron Mason's second season behind the Michigan State bench.
The Green and White return to action Friday when they play the front end of a home-and-home series with Bowling Green.