Home sport Michigan State's hockey season ends with a loss to UM in the NCAA Tournament

Michigan State's hockey season ends with a loss to UM in the NCAA Tournament

Michigan State's hockey season ends with a loss to UM in the NCAA Tournament

Michigan State's remarkable second championship-winning season under head coach Adam Nightingale has come to an end. On Sunday, the Spartans were defeated 5-2 by in-state rival Michigan in the NCAA Tournament regional final at Maryland Heights.

The 343rd meeting ever between these two on-ice rivals, this was the first time in the history of this series that the Spartans and Wolverines had faced off in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State entered the game having won four straight games against Michigan, including an overtime win in the Big Ten Tournament final.

However, this outing went the other way, as the Wolverines took control with two goals in a 12-second span with seven minutes left to turn a tied game into a two-goal UM lead. Five minutes later, Michigan put the finishing touches on its win when Dylan Duke redirected a shot from Gavin Brindley into the net for the final goal of the game.

Michigan State had an early power play opportunity less than five minutes into the game when Brindley was fouled on a holding penalty for the Wolverines. The Spartans took advantage of the extra skater, taking a 1-0 lead at 13:40 of the first period when Gavin O'Connell redirected a shot from Matt Pasgall home past Wolverine goaltender Jake Barczewski.

Just under six minutes into the second half, Michigan got the equalizer. The Wolverines found themselves in a 3-on-2 opportunity in transition, as TJ Hughes crossed the blue line, passing left to Duke, who found Ethan Edwards for a one-timer in front of the net to beat MSU goaltender Trey Augustine.

The Spartans found themselves trailing for the first time at the 13:31 mark of the third period, after Michigan's Garrett Shefsky dropped a pass to Jacob Truscott, who found Marshall Warren in the back of the net to beat Augustine and give the Wolverines a 2-1 advantage.

Needing a response, Michigan State had a chance when UM's Phillip Lapointe was hit with a two-minute boarding penalty. The Spartans got their second power-play goal of the day with 9:34 left, when Nicholas Mueller found a wide-open Joey Larsson off a set that beat Barczewski with a layup to make it 2-2.

However, the Spartans' relief was short-lived, as the Wolverines hit MSU with straight goals at the 7:18 and 7:06 marks of the third period. The first came when Duke received a pass from Hughes at center ice, used his speed to skate past two Spartan defenders, crossed in front of the goal and beat Augustine for a wraparound goal. Suddenly, Michigan State trailed again, and didn't have time to gather its wits. Michigan won the ensuing faceoff as the puck found its way to Ethan Edwards, who passed in front of UM's Frank Nazar, who dropped a between-the-legs pass across the ice to Brindley for a back-breaking goal.

Trailing by two minutes, Michigan State pulled Augustine with nearly three and a half minutes remaining in a desperate attempt to get back into the game, but that strategy was short-lived when MSU's Mueller was hit with a two-minute penalty. Duke scored his second goal of the game for the Wolverines just nine seconds later on the ensuing power play to put the game out of reach.

With this defeat, Michigan State was denied its first trip to the Frozen Four since 2007, a disappointing end to what has been an impressive season for the Spartans. MSU won the Big Ten regular season championship for the first time since hockey became a league sport for the conference in 2013-14. It was the Spartans' first regular season conference title since 2001, and they followed that up by winning the Big Ten Tournament title as well (their first league tournament title since 2007). Nightingale's current squad is brimming with young talent, and Michigan State continues to recruit at a high level, indicating that the Spartans will continue to compete for championships in the near future.

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