GVSU splits thrilling series with Spartans

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
-  A junior from Bay City, Michigan, Zac Strain breaks free from the Michigan State defense line at Georgetown Ice Arena.

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - A junior from Bay City, Michigan, Zac Strain breaks free from the Michigan State defense line at Georgetown Ice Arena.

Adam Knorr

The Grand Valley State University men’s club ice hockey team came into the weekend looking to gain some separation from rival Michigan State University after sharing a 6-6-1 record in the 13 most recent games of the series, but the rivalry just became even tighter.

The Georgetown Ice Arena was rocking on Friday night when the Spartans came to visit for the first game of the home-and-home weekend series. The Lakers, who were playing in front of their largest home crowd of the season in perhaps their biggest game of the season, started slow but didn’t disappoint.

“We were a little awestruck with the crowd and had some performance anxiety,” GVSU head coach Mike Forbes said. “I’m obviously happy with the outcome, but we can play a lot better.”

MSU struck first as sophomore Shane Stockwell beat GVSU senior goaltender Scott Teifenthal midway through the first period, but Laker defenseman Bobby Penrod notched the equalizer minutes later to send the teams into the break tied 1-1.

GVSU took control in the second period with an early goal from junior forward Ian Hamilton, and shortly thereafter, the dynamic first line broke through when junior forward Matt Smartt found freshman standout JD Duckworth to give the home team a 3-1 lead.

The Spartans answered seconds later, however, as freshman Tyler Maloney beat Teifenthal to draw the Spartans within one.

A physical third period had little-to-no offense until an MSU shot found its way through traffic and past a well-screened Tiefenthal to tie the game with 2:12 left to play.

The tie didn’t last long.

GVSU’s top line struck again just 28 seconds into overtime when Smartt sent a low wrister to the goalmouth which bounced off the pads of MSU goalie Brent Schwarz and, after being kicked around in a brief scrum, found its way onto the tape of Duckworth.

He buried it, the cheer went up, and the celebratory dogpile ensued with the freshman at the bottom.

“At first I was at a loss for words; I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “That’s one for the boys. It’s all for the team.”

Night two was like déjà vu. Almost.

The Lakers carried their momentum over to East Lansing, Mich., and burst out of the gate in the first period by capturing a 3-1 lead. Junior forward Brad Wilhelm, who had missed a game-winning opportunity the night before, led the early attack with two goals.

MSU, keen to maintain the spirit of the rivalry, didn’t go away easily. Down 3-2 with time winding down in the third, the Spartans pulled another rabbit out of the hat and tied the game 3-3 with five minutes to go.

There was time for one more magic trick, and MSU performed it with gusto.

With 0.9 seconds separating the teams from a second consecutive overtime game, the Spartans lit the lamp one more time and, by doing so, pulled ahead in the most recent portion of the series.

The loss snaps a four-game winning streak for GVSU, but the close game figures to add more fuel to the long-raging fire of the rivalry.

Senior captain Nick Heinrich couldn’t help but feel that he and his teammates let one slip through their fingers.

“We basically did it to ourselves again,” Heinrich said. “We beat ourselves. Our leaders need to step up big time and just be a lot more disciplined going forward.”

GVSU will return to action with a matchup at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Jan. 31.