ST. LOUIS — With their top line of Josh Soares, Michel Levielle, and Keith Johnson clicking, the Black Bears led by two goals before this contest was five minutes old, making their first score just 23 seconds in.
Right after the opening faceoff and just 23 seconds in, Johnson gave Maine the 1-0 lead with a one-timer from the bottom of the slot. Soares fished the puck out from the right corner and passed out to a wide-open Johnson, who beat MSU goaltender Jeff Lerg low and right.
At 3:25, Johnson was instrumental on the second goal, when he sent the puck from the corner to defenseman Travis Ramsey at the right point, before Ramsey fed Soares between the circles. Soares shot up and over Lerg’s right shoulder for the 2-0 advantage.
With the Black Bears outshooting the Spartans nearly two-to-one early in the opening frame, the contest looked to be all Maine, but scrappy play behind the Black Bear net gave MSU the opportunity to cut Maine’s lead.
In a struggle for possession along the dashers, Spartan Chris Mueller came away with the puck and shot at the Maine cage, close to the right post. With heavy traffic around the crease, Maine goaltender Ben Bishop tried to get a glove on it but the puck went airborne and out of reach, and right back to the stick of Mueller, who hit it in from midair to cut the Black Bear lead to one at 7:25.
The Spartans came out with all the jump in the second, testing Bishop early and drawing the slashing penalty on Brent Shepheard at 1:24, but it took them another 16 minutes before they could tie the score.
Chris Snavely had the goal for MSU at 16:31. Snavely skated the puck across the Maine blue line and passed to Justin Abdelkader near the right dot. Abdelkader toyed with it momentarily before passing it back to Snavely, who wasted no time blasting it long from the top of the circle to beat Bishop clean on the far side, knotting the score at 2-2.
Both Bishop and Lerg did their parts during the middle 20 to keep the game close. With 6:30 to go, the Spartans — having learned how to score in the first with the Mueller’s scrambly marker — penetrated the Black Bear defense and buzzed Bishop, allowing Tim Crowder to take a point-blank shot that Bishop barely had time to deflect to preserve the 2-1 lead.
Then, with less than a minute left, Lerg kept it tied, when he stopped Billy Ryan’s one-timer from the right circle, moving from left to right to make the save.
Shots on goal through two: Maine 23, Michigan State 23.