MARQUETTE, Mich. — Northern Michigan fought the nation’s top-ranked team in front of sold-out crowd of 3,906 and settled for a split with the Michigan State Spartans, suffering a 2-1 defeat tonight at the Berry Events Center.
For the Wildcats (12-9-7 overall, 8-8-6), it marked the end of the of a five-game home unbeaten streak, while the Spartans (22-3-4, 15-3-3) stopped their only losing streak of the season at two games.
In a game that only saw two penalties called, one for each side, Michigan State jumped out to a two-goal lead before Northern Michigan’s power-play unit struck for the second straight night to make things interesting.
John Nail got the Spartans on the board 4:47 into the second period, beating freshman netminder Craig Kowalski along the ice after he picked up the loose puck in the crease.
Nail struck again nearly 20 minutes later for MSU’s second goal, and eventual game-winner, beating Kowalski on his high glove side on a shot from the slot. Sean Patchell and Andrew Bogle were credited with assits on both of Nail’s goals.
The first penalty of the game came 12:51 into the second period, when NMU junior Chad Theuer was called for interference. Michigan State managed only one shot in its two minutes with the man-advantage, and for the second night failed to score on the power play.
Northern Michigan’s only opportunity came at the 7:07 mark of the final stanza, when State’s Brian Maloney was sent to the box for elbowing. It only took 10 seconds and one shot before Northern capitalized as junior Sean Connolly re-routed a blast from sophomore Jimmy Jackson. Junior Chad Theuer was also credited with an assist.
Ryan Miller made 19 stops in net for the Spartans, while Kowalski stopped 20 of MSU’s 22 shots, and was pulled with 1:15 left in the game in favor of an extra attacker.
Northern had a chance to tie the game with less than 10 seconds remaining after senior Mike Sandbeck won a faceoff in the Spartan zone and kicked it back to Jackson on the blueline, who had his shot stopped by an MSU defenseman in front of Miller.
The Wildcats will hit the road for their next five games, starting next weekend with a two-game series against the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Michigan State, meanwhile, returns to the friendly confines of Munn Arena to host the Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks.