By Stefan Kubus –
EAST LANSING – A trio of Canton natives and a young, red-hot line led the way for the Michigan State Spartans tonight against rival Michigan Wolverines in front of a record Munn Ice Arena crowd of 7,225.
The line of sophomores Matt Berry, Brent Darnell, and freshman Matt DeBlouw (Chesterfield) combined for five goals and five assists – including a hat trick for Berry – en route to a 7-2 victory for the Spartans Saturday night. Senior alternate captain Anthony Hayes (Canton) added the game-winning goal for the 4-5-1 (3-2-1-0 CCHA) Spartans.
“We’ve been playing together for two or three weeks here, so we’re starting to know where each other are going to be and find those spots that each person is going,” Berry said of his linemates. “So, it kind of shows you that we’re getting better as the weeks go on.”
The first period was a wild one, with the heated rivals lighting the lamp a combined five times in the first 10:42. And it didn’t take long for Berry and company to get the ball rolling.
Just 34 seconds into the game, Berry broke in on a brilliant between-the-legs drop pass from DeBlouw, made a move on Michigan freshman goaltender Jared Rutledge and roofed the puck for a 1-0 lead.
“You know, Darnell made a nice pass through to DeBlouw, and both D kind of sucked to him, and he just dropped it through his legs,” Berry said of the goal. “They kind of all collided and just left the puck there for me to go in on a breakaway.”
Six minutes later, Darnell would bury a goal of his own, as a puck leaked out in front of the net right to him. Untouched, Darnell made no mistake, burying the puck and giving the Spartans an early insurance marker.
And a mere 23 seconds later, senior alternate captain Anthony Hayes (Canton) put a third goal past Rutledge, electrifying the hometown Spartan crowd and forcing Michigan head coach Red Berenson to call a timeout. But at that point, the damage had been done.
Shortly after the timeout, Cristoval “Boo” Nieves put the Wolverines on the board with a power play tally, ripping a rebound in the high slot past Hildebrand. Assists went to freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba (Rochester) – ninth overall draft pick to the Winnipeg Jets in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft – and junior forward Luke Moffatt.
But Berry’s second goal of the night regained the three-goal lead for MSU at the 10:42 mark. Down 4-1 heading into the dressing room, Berenson admitted that his team was in a tough spot, but also that he still thought there was a chance to get back into the game.
“There were five goals scored in the first ten minutes and four of them against us,” Berenson said. “And that cannot happen. We put ourselves in a hole.
“This team can come back, but we didn’t do it. We had a couple of good chances, we didn’t capitalize on it, and sure enough, they went down and scored on theirs. The puck was going in on one end and it wasn’t on the other.”
The second stanza brought about a much calmer pace to the game, with the Spartans almost sitting back too much, giving the Wolverines that desperately-needed opportunity to get back into the game.
The Wolverines’ senior captain, A.J. Treais (Bloomfield Hills), seized that opportunity to pull Michigan within two goals, 4-2, with nine minutes remaining in the second. But once again, it was Berry who would take charge and regain the three-goal lead for the Spartans.
As freshman David Bondra broke the puck into the offensive zone, he dished a pass to freshman DeBlouw, who made a remarkable pass to Berry breaking to the far side of the net. Berry swiftly tipped home his hat-trick goal to give MSU a 5-2 lead.
DeBlouw and senior Kevin Walrod would each add a goal to finalize the 7-2 score for MSU. Walrod’s goal caused Berenson to replace Rutledge with fellow freshman Steve Racine not because it was Rutledge’s fault, but because it had gotten to the “point where it wasn’t fair to him,” according to Berenson.
“You knew they would come out harder and play better, but I didn’t know that we would come out so poorly,” Berenson said. “And I can’t blame our goalie, it was nothing to do with him. It was poor defense, it was poor defensive play, it was poor battle. There was no battle in this team tonight, and they just took over the game.”
Meanwhile, Berry extended his team lead in goals and points, with six goals and five assists for 11 points in ten games now. The young DeBlouw – who registered a goal and two assists Saturday night – is right behind him with ten points (4-6-10) in 11 games.
With the record crowd on hand, MSU head coach Tom Anastos credited the elevated emotional atmosphere with giving his team a huge boost.
“Tonight I thought our guys were more relaxed,” Anastos said. “I thought we had more jump, I thought the atmosphere here had a huge impact on our team, I think that was a huge difference, that there was an emotional level that I haven’t seen in our team this season yet. I think the rivalry brings some of that out, but I think the atmosphere in this building had a lot to do with it, between the students and the size of the crowd.”
Notes: The Wolverines’ loss drops Michigan to a 4-4-1 record overall (2-3-1-1 CCHA)… New record crowd at Munn Ice Arena Saturday night of 7,225. Previous record was 7,121, set back in 2001 during the Ryan Miller era… Matt Berry’s hat trick was the first of his career.