DETROIT — A tournament championship may not have been at stake but a matchup between two in-state rivals quickly heated up on Saturday.
Shoves quickly became punches as a brawl broke out between Michigan State and Michigan at Little Caesars Arena. However, neither came away winners in a 2-2 tie in the Great Lakes Invitational consolation game.
“We hate them and they hate us,” MSU’s Patrick Khodorenko said. “That’s just how it is and it shows the way we battle, both teams. They’re always good games.”
MSU’s Tommy Appa was shoved in front of U-M’s goal. Shortly after, three Wolverine defenders were around Appa. The Spartans’ front line threw the defenders off Appa and three separate skirmishes needed to be broken up. In all, 12 roughing penalties were called, six were 10-minute majors.
“With all the penalties in the scrum, both teams were looking just kill each other,” said Nick Pastujov, who scored U-M’s equalizing goal with 1:15 left in regulation.
The Spartans established a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period with both goals coming after the brawl during power plays, despite the Wolverines holding a 23-9 shot advantage. Wojiech Stachowiak scored on an inside-out slapshot in front of the crease set up by Sam Silba from behind the net. The freshman from Gdansk, Poland, scored his first two collegiate goals in Sunday’s overtime loss to Lake Superior State.
A roughing call on Dakota Raabe gave MSU a power play through the end of the period, which turned into a 5-on-3 advantage after Brendan Warren was called for tripping Taro Hirose with less than a minute to play. Hirose then set up an easy pass for Khodorenko’s 12th goal and a Spartan lead at the first intermission.
The assist marked Hirose’s 21st of the year, the best in Division I and his team-leading 28th point.
“It was huge, just mentally,” MSU coach Danton Cole said. “I think it helped us going into the third and our guys hung together well.”
After converting on both power play chances in the first, however, MSU went scoreless on the next four advantages the rest of the way, despite putting up seven shots, compared to two in the first two kills.
Michigan went the entire third without going on the kill again and the only power play the Wolverines had in the last period set up the game-tying goal.
With 1:53 remaining in the second, Hirose was called for hooking, which gave U-M a 5-on-3 edge after Jerad Rosburg was called for a 10-minute game misconduct major which carried into the third. The Spartans were able to close out the period without allowing a score, but Nick Pastujov scored on a rebounded shot in front of DeRidder to tie the game with 18:43 left in regulation.
“It changed the game, it was huge,” U-M coach Mel Pearson coach. “They had a chance to flat-out bury us, and I thought our penalty killers did a great job at a critical time for us.”
The tie ends MSU’s eight-game losing streak in the GLI, however, the Spartans are winless in the yearly tourney since 2014. In regular season play, the Wolverines are winless in their last nine, spanning back to Nov. 16 at Penn State.
The Spartans are off until Friday when Ohio State (11-4-1) comes to Munn Ice Arena for a two-game series. Game one is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.
Overall, Cole said he was impressed with the team’s performance.
“I thought our guys battled real hard today,” he said. “As (Khodorenko) said, I think he made a good point, in terms of a step in the right direction. “We’re at a spot here with this team and the maturation of it and it didn’t just start this year, it’s kind of been built from last year.
“I give them credit because that’s what we wanted our guys to realize, that it’s a step in the right direction.”