Dec 12, 2011

Spartans earn weekend split with Wolverines

By Sean Gagnier
Michigan State headed into the weekend looking to do battle with their in-state rivals and sweep the two game series. While a sweep wasn't attained the Spartans were able to gain a split against the Wolverines -  including a shootout victory at home.

In front of a sold-out crowd at Munn Ice Arena on Saturday the Spartans took home a shootout victory on the back of senior goalie Drew Palmisano.

Prior to his appointment as MSU head coach this season Tom Anastos served as the commissioner of the CCHA, instituting a controversial shootout rule in 2008. This rule would avoid tie games in games between CCHA opponents, something Anastos thought would entertain the crowds. 

On Saturday Michigan State benefited from the prior decision of their head coach, with the Spartans riding a hot Palmisano to a 4-3 overtime victory. The victory served as payback for a loss Friday night to the Wolverines at Yost Ice Arena.

"I was real proud of how hard our guys competed," said Anastos. "And you know, I was real happy for (Palmisano), in particular, shutting them down in the shootout.”

As was the case on Friday night, in Michigan's win over Michigan State, the scoreboard showed a closely contested game in which neither team seemed to gain the sustained upper hand on the other. The Wolverines held a 3-2 lead over the Spartans with a little under four minutes remaining in the game when MSU's Lee Reimer lit the lamp to tie the game at three apiece.

The two teams dueled in out during a five minute overtime session, without either being able to find the back of the net, leading to the deciding shootout. In the shootout Anastos chose to go with a lineup of Brett Perlini, Matt Berry and Greg Wolfe.

Perlini drove towards the net and Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick -  he missed on his attempt, but Palmisano was able to turn aside the Michigan attempt at the other end. Berry was able to deke around Hunwick to put the Spartans on the board while Palmisano kept Michigan off the board. In the final round of the shootout MSU's Greg Wolfe's shot was turned aside by Hunwick but Palmisano stoned Michigan's AJ Treais.

As Palmisano turned aside the final shot Munn Ice Arena exploded with the excited cheers of fans and the senior goaltender kicked the air before jumping against the glass in front of the MSU student section.

“The Michigan State-Michigan rivalry is the biggest in college hockey,” Palmisano said. “It always feels good to beat these guys at home.”

Michigan State will have a 16-day break over the holidays before heading back to East Lansing to get ready for the Great Lakes Invitational (Dec. 29-30 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit). Closing out the first half of the season the Spartans hold a 10-6-2 record while going 6-5-1-1 in CCHA games.  

The first half of the season could be considered to be a success for the Spartans as they were expected to finish in the basement of the CCHA and so far have defeated Minnesota, Western Michigan and Northern Michigan - teams all ranked in the top ten.

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