By Matt Mackinder/Michigan & Michigan State Beat Writer
The Michigan State Spartans seem to be peaking at the right time and last weekend looked like the defending national champions by beating and tying then top-ranked Michigan in a home-and-home series.
MSU beat the Wolverines, 1-0, Friday night at Yost Ice Arena, but then gave up a late goal Saturday night for a 2-2 tie in East Lansing.
“(Michigan ) is the No.1 team in the country coming in,” Michigan State head coach Rick Comley said. “They were fortunate to be able to leave with a point. When two good teams go at each other, things happen.”
In Friday’s game, senior captain Bryan Lerg scored the lone goal and goalie Jeff Lerg stopped all 26 shots he faced for the win.
"I thought it was a very good game; I wanted to see how we would react and handle their speed," noted Comley. "I thought (Michigan goaltender Billy) Sauer kept them in the game for about the first 30 minutes. I thought he made some really good saves. It was up and down and I thought we got better as the game went on. Their power play got them going in the second and Jeff (Lerg) came up really big after that."
Sauer finished with 27 saves for U-M.
"Obviously, they came in and played a strong game on the road,” Wolverines head coach Red Berenson said. “We knew the power play could be a factor, and it was. They had just one goal, and that's all it took in this game. You never know how these games are going to go, but look at the past 20 games -- there are probably not more than a handful of goals that separate the winning and losing team. It was one goal; they're precious. So, that was a factor in the game and obviously we have to play better when we get the puck.”
Saturday at Munn Ice Arena, Matt Rust scored a controversial goal with 1:38 left in the game to pull Michigan into the 2-all statemate in front of 7,072 spectators (sixth largest in Munn history).
Rust cross-checked MSU defenseman Mike Ratchuk to the ice in front of Jeff Lerg and then scored the goal. The Spartans contested, but the goal stood.
“There should have been a penalty, but (the referees) didn't see it,” said Comley. “If they didn't see it, then they can't make a call.”
Max Pacioretty scored the game’s first goal for the Wolverines, but Daniel Vukovic and Tim Crowder answered with power-play goals 46 seconds apart.
"I think it was a hard-fought game,” Michigan senior captain Kevin Porter said. “Both teams were playing well. We both had our chances. Both goalies played great. Luckily, we got one in there at the end. I thought we had a lot of chances. Maybe that last goal was lucky, but to come out with a tie, I don't feel lucky at all. We could have won."
Sauer made 32 saves and Lerg turned aside 29 in the tie.
Michigan 's all-time record against Michigan State is 127-117-18. In East Lansing , U-M trails 41-57-8 and is winless in its last four (0-2-2).
The Spartans (17-5-5, 13-2-3 CCHA) host Nebraska-Omaha this weekend, while Michigan (22-3-1, 15-2-1 CCHA) hosts Northern Michigan for a pair.