DETROIT, Mich. – After a win in Ann Arbor, No. 9 Michigan State met rival No. 11 Michigan in Detroit for the annual Duel in the D in front of a record-breaking 18,410 fans on Saturday night.
“What an atmosphere,” head coach Adam Nightingale said. “We have an unbelievable hockey state and to see that turnout and the passion from both fanbases.”
Michigan State was in search of the sweep and their first-ever win against the Wolverines in Little Caesars Arena (0-6-1, including GLI games). In the home of the Red Wings (Joe Louis Arena and LCA), the Spartans are 11-19-5 in all Duel in the D matchups.
Freshman goaltender Trey Augustine got a taste of playing in an arena he will start his professional career playing in as a second-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings. With 36 saves on the night, it’s safe to say Augustine wasted no time making himself at home, but as always, the freshman stayed locked in on the task ahead.
“I went out and sat on the bench for a couple of minutes before the game and just kind of took it all in,” Augustine said. “Then it’s just getting back to the game at hand.”
In the first period, the ice was tilted in favor of the Wolverines for a majority of the time. Big saves from Augustine kept Michigan off the board, and the MSU defense did a good job blocking shots and getting their sticks in to intercept Wolverine passes. The Spartans totaled 16 blocked shots on the night, seven coming from junior defenseman David Gucciardi. Despite that, and a few small breakaways, the Spartans did not spend much time in the offensive zone. The fourth line got the ball rolling after freshman forward Tommi Männistö found junior forward Tanner Kelly in the slot to put the Spartans up in the second half of the period. The goal was Kelly’s second of the weekend after opening up scoring in Ann Arbor the night before.
Kelly, a player who missed out on some games after taking a few too many penalties, showed the hard work and grit that is seen from all of Adam Nightingales’ players since his return to the lineup last weekend, and he was rewarded in this series.
“Tanner is a critical piece to our team, but I also made a promise to these guys that we are going to hold them accountable,” Nightingale said. “He did nothing but work and he got back in and that line has obviously been really good for us.”
Michigan State came out with a bit more fire in the second, but when senior defenseman Nash Nienhuis was called for interference, the Spartans had to focus on a penalty kill against one of the top power plays in the country. Sophomore forward Gavin Brindley left the puck in front of the net for junior forward Dylan Duke, and he would bury it to knot the game at one apiece. However, the Spartans would not stay down long as goals from sophomore forwards Tiernan Shoudy and Karsen Dorwart made the score 3-1 heading into the final 20 minutes.
The fourth line started their third consecutive game and tormented the Wolverines with their speed and skill. All three skaters, Männistö, Shoudy, and Kelly, tallied two points in Detroit with a goal and assist each for Kelly and Shoudy and two assists for Männistö. The line goes to show the depth this Michigan State team has and that every single skater can step up and produce when needed.
“I think we just play with a lot of tenacity out there,” Kelly said. “We all play sort of similar. We work really hard and just try to bring energy to our team every night.”
The third period started in favor of Michigan State, with a chance on the man advantage after Wolverine sophomore forward Rutger McGroarty was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after the second ended. However, the teams went back and forth for a while until about halfway through the period when McGroarty would find Brindley, who tapped the loose puck behind Augustine to make it a one-goal game. However, that was all the Wolverines would get as the Spartans stood strong in the final frame and took home the “Iron D” Trophy and the weekend sweep.
This win brings the Spartans to the 20-win mark, their first time achieving this since 2007-08. This achievment also secures home ice advantage for Michigan State for the Big Ten Tournament. While this milestone cannot go unnoticed, Nightingale knows the work that must be done.
“I think long term, we know our goal is to be the best program in college hockey, and we’re not there yet,” Nightingale said. “We’re just talking about playing our best and if you have good players like we do and you play your best, you’re gonna win some hockey games.”
Michigan State has a week of rest on the bye before taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes at Munn on Feb. 23 and 24.