Lackluster play, disallowed goal stymie Wolverines
As poorly as Michigan played for two periods Friday night at Munn Ice Arena, it still had a chance to tie the game with less than a minute remaining. However, a premature whistle from referee Matt Shegos nullified a marker and left U-M on the losing end of a 3-2 defeat to Michigan State …
Of course, Spartan fans will argue they had this one locked up at 17:22 of the third when forward Andrew Rowe stuffed a rebound into the net for a 4-2 lead. His goal was disallowed, though, when Shegos called him for checking from behind. It was probably the right call, but Shegos blew the whistle from center ice, overruling official Mark Wilkins, who stood behind the net signaling a goal this time.
To even have a chance late was something of a gift for the Maize and Blue. They played uninspired hockey for two periods, looking like they might on opening night, with poor puck touches - sloppy passes and an inability to maintain possession - risky decisions that led to (unofficially) eight odd-man rushes through 40 minutes and a power play that appeared disadvantaged on its first six tries.
"I didn't think our team played very well at the outset of the game," head coach Red Berenson said. "We have to play better than that in the first period if you are going to come in here and put a team like that on their heels, and we didn't do that.
"It looked like we were not sleepwalking, but we weren't playing at the level that we have to play at against a good team like this. I don't know why. That's a good question."
By the time the third period began, Michigan State led 2-0, dominating the Wolverines. MSU scored 2:51 into the third on forward Corey Tropp's second power-play marker of the contest to open up a 3-0 lead, and the blowout was, seemingly, on.
However, the Green and White were whistled for four penalties (and Michigan for two) at 3:18 of the third period, providing U-M a 5-on-3 and a five-minute power play with at least one extra man. Junior left wing Carl Hagelin, stationed near the far post, took a pass from linemate Matt Rust and deposited his 13th goal of the year, at least giving the Wolverines some momentum.
Unfortunately, Michigan could not capitalize on another goal during the remaining 4:28 of the five-minute major and it appeared State would control the rest of the game. Junior center Louie Caporusso's power-play goal at 16:40, though, brought the Wolverines within one and a mad rush ensued in the final few minutes.
Michigan State had the first beef with Wilkins, but Rowe clearly interfered with U-M defender Chris Summers and was called for the penalty.
At 19:22 of the third, Caporusso sent a shot towards the net that surprised MSU goalie Drew Palmisano. Freshman forward Chris Brown banged at the rebound and as Palmisano dove to the ice to cover the puck, it slid between his legs and into the net but Shegos was already blowing the whistle because he was out of position -- in the two referee system he's supposed to be directly behind the net but he was late getting there and was off to the side - and lost sight of the puck.
Even if he did lose sight, though, he should have waited until he established proper position before blowing the play dead. Instead, he blew the whistle immediately after losing the puck and blew the call.
"It's too bad there has to be controversy," Berenson said. "Was the puck in? Wasn't it in? Should it have been a penalty or not? It's too bad.
"The way our players explained it was that [Michigan State's goalie] covered the puck for a split-second and then a player hit it before the whistle. The referee either blew the whistle or intended to blow the whistle."
In the end, however, Michigan can look back at its own lackluster play for 2+ periods to explain why it was even in a position late in the game contesting whistles.
With the loss, the Wolverines fell from seventh to ninth place in the CCHA (though just four points out of fourth) and are on the verge of being swept by Michigan State in the rivals' annual four-game matchup for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign.
The two teams will meet at Joe Louis Arena for a neutral site contest Saturday at 7:35 p.m. The game can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit.