Michigan State's dream hockey season ends with bitter loss to Michigan in Regional Final

On3 imageby:Jim Comparoni03/31/24


Michigan State’s dream hockey season ended with a postseason nightmare. The Spartans were tied 2-2 with archrival Michigan with less than eight minutes to play in the NCAA Tournament Regional Final when the Wolverines erupted for three late goals to score a 5-2 victory and end the Spartans’ season one win away from the Frozen Four, on Sunday at the Centene Community Ice Center in Maryland Heights, Mo.

Michigan State had beaten Michigan four times in five games prior to this one, including an overtime victory over the Wolverines in the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game just eight days earlier. Each of those games seemed of paramount importance at the time. But none were as big as this one, and the Spartans came up short in its bid to beat Michigan five out of six for the season.

“It’s never easy losing a game like this, especially to those guys,” said sophomore center Karsen Dorwart. “As much as it stings now, you kind of try to look to the future and use this all summer to motivate you and hope you can get back.”

“I think it’s pretty arrogant to think I have the words to help them feel better,” said MSU head coach Adam Nightingale. “This one hurts for sure, and it’s not about who we played. It’s just an opportunity to go play in a Frozen Four, with the season we’ve had.

“We have a lot of momentum. Super exciting time with our program, but we’re not there yet. And it’s okay to look in the mirror and we’ve got to get better, and we’ve got a group of guys that understand that.”

“Obviously a tough, tough pill to swallow,” said Michigan State associate head coach Jared DeMichiel. “When you play a team six times, at the end of the day, I think we might have picked the wrong game to win. But it is what it is. We will learn from this and it’s going to fuel our fire moving forward.”


Michigan State (25-10-3) was hoping for its first appearance in the Frozen Four since its last National Championship season of 2007. Instead, Michigan – which seemed to be taking a step backward as a program this year – has won five of its last six games in advancing to its third straight Frozen Four with a 23-14-3 record.

This was the 348th meeting between the two rivals, in what is arguably the most passionate rivalry in college hockey. It marked the first time the two teams had met each other in the NCAA Tournament. 

In a season in which Michigan State’s fortunes as a program changed abruptly, and the Spartans suddenly re-emerged as a college hockey power in Nightingale’s second year as head coach, to see things come to an end in this fashion against the arch rival was difficult to digest.

“This group definitely brought Spartan hockey back to where we all think it should be and can be,” DeMichiel said. “We’re not perfect. We’re not there yet. But we definitely pushed things in the right direction here this year.

“You think about our captain, Nash Neinhuis – unbelievable leadership from him this year. And Nico Müller, a Spartan for five years. Those two young men, their time and effort and their ability to shift our culture in a positive direction and so many team accolades and pushing things where we want it to be.”


Michigan scored two goals in :12 seconds to turn a 2-2 tie and brewing classic into a suddenly comfortable 4-2 Wolverine lead. 

Michigan State was beginning to win races to the puck during the middle stages of the third period and it looked as if the Spartans were beginning another late-game surge, which had been a hallmark of their Big Ten championship season, and Friday’s comeback victory over Western Michigan in the Regional Semifinal. 

But Michigan changed matters in an instant when Dylan Duke used NHL speed in beating Michigan State defenseman Matt Basgall wide, and finished on the far side to give Michigan State a 3-2 lead with 7:18 to play.

Then, :12 seconds later, Michigan’s Frank Nazar broke free on a two-on-one, catching Basgall out of position, and fed Gavin Brindley for an open-net goal and a commanding 4-2 lead.

“I will be the first one to tell you, I didn’t make a good enough play on either one of those goals,” Basgall said. “So I take responsibility for those. It was a tough read for me on the first one. I’m kind of in the middle and I slow my feet down and I give him the wide lane and he took it. 

“As a man, I’ll say it. I do take responsibility for that. It’s a team game, but I think I can do better on those plays.”

Michigan State applied pressure over the next four minutes, and pulled goalie Trey Augustine with 3:58 left, as pressure continued.

But a slashing penalty to Michigan State’s Nicolas Müller with 2:28 left badly damaged the Spartans’ chances of an improbable comeback. All hope was lost when Duke scored again with a deflection, on the power play, with 2:19 remaining. 


The Spartans outshot Michigan 18-11 in the third period and 40-35 for the game, and received strong goaltending from Augustine for most of the night. Augustine didn’t have much of a chance on the five goals that were scored.

Freshman right wing Gavin O’Connell, and sophomore right wing Joey Larson each scored for Michigan State. Basgall, Isaac Howard and Müller posted assists.


Michigan State tied the game at 2-2 at 9:34 of the third period when Larson drove home a one-timer from the slot on the power play. Müller mucked it out of the corner and Larson capitalized on a Wolverine coverage error.

That was Larson’s first goal in 14 games, his 16th of the season and team-leading eighth power play goal of the year. 

Michigan took a 2-1 lead at 13:31 of the third period when Marshall Warren one-timed a cross-zone pass, beating Augustine who had very little chance on the shot. 


Michigan State took a 1-0 lead when O’Connell (6-0, Fr., Plymouth, Minn.) deflected a Basgall pass past Michigan goalie Jake Barczewski.

Michigan State had been leaky in allowing odd-man rushes early in the first meeting of the season between these two teams, and also throughout the first period of last week’s Big Ten Tournament Championship Game. 

However, Michigan State was solid in preventing odd man rushes through the first half of this game. But Michigan tied the game at 1-1 when Michigan State’s Daniel Russell narrowly missed the body on a forecheck as the Wolverines got out on a 3-on-2 rush, finished by Michigan’s Ethan Edwards, 14:19 into the second period.


Michigan State killed four Michigan power plays, no small task against the nation’s No. 1 ranked power play unit. However, the Wolverines were without power play quarterback Seamus Casey. He was out with an injury sustained in the Regional Semifinals on Friday night against North Dakota. 

Michigan State came into the game with a plan to stay disciplined and out of the penalty box. However, each of those four penalties were unnecessary. Yet, Michigan State survived them.

Meanwhile, Michigan State was without senior defenseman David Gucciardi, who went down with a head injury during Friday’s Regional Semifinal victory over Western Michigan. 

Michigan made it 1-for-5 on the power play with Duke’s goal with 2:19 left off the deflection.

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