EAST LANSING, Mich. — If Michigan State hockey officials knew what was going to take place in Thursday’s game against Bowling Green, they might have promoted the event as “Freshmen Night.”
Five Spartan freshmen accounted for five of the six MSU goals as the third-ranked Spartans got back on track, following last weekend’s sweep at the hands of Nebraska-Omaha, with a 6-3 win over Bowling Green before a crowd of 6,548 at Munn Ice Arena.
MSU improved to 4-2-1 overall and in league play, while Bowling Green dropped to 1-3-2 (1-2-1 CCHA).
“The pucks went in for us tonight, that was pretty obvious,” said MSU head coach Ron Mason.
The first puck went in 2:58 into the first period when freshman center Lee Falardeau skated innocently into the Falcons’ zone and fired a shot that deflected off defenseman Brian Escobedo’s stick and handcuffed goalie Tyler Masters.
Just under six minutes later, on a Bowling Green power play, a great individual effort by junior winger Bryan Maloney put the Spartans up 2-0.
Maloney blocked Falcon defenseman Kevin Bieksa’s shot from the point, then stickhandled around Bieksa to create a two-on-one. Maloney capitalized on the opportunity with a perfect shot over Masters’ glove and underneath the crossbar for a shorthanded goal at 9:57.
“I took a gamble on going around him — I was going to ice it right away — but just grabbed it and went around him,” Maloney said. “The goaltender was back in his net and he gave me the hole upstairs, so I just put my head down and shot it. Luckily it went in.”
The Falcons answered back less than two minutes later when senior defenseman Grady Moore skated in from the point and beat Miller between the pads from the slot to cut the Spartans’ lead to 2-1.
MSU responded at the 14:06 mark of the second period on a two-man advantage when freshman center Ash Goldie deflected home defenseman John-Michael Liles’ shot from the point to give MSU its two-goal margin back at 3-1.
The freshman brigade continued for MSU when Kevin Estrada took a perfect feed from defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, who skated in behind Masters, and buried the chance above Masters’ glove for his first collegiate goal, putting the Spartans up 4-1 with just seven seconds remaining in the period.
Hutchinson finished the night with three assists.
“Making a mistake that like at the end of the period just crushed us,” said Bowling Green head coach Buddy Powers.
In the third period, freshmen Mike LaLonde and Jim Slater completed the scoring for MSU. Slater’s third goal of the season was a power-play tally.
Bowling Green also added two goals in the final period, as senior captain Greg Day and senior center Ryan Wetterberg each were able to beat Miller, who made 21 saves on the night.
The Falcons hurt themselves by spending much of the night in the penalty box, taking nine penalties.
“Our team ends up in the penalty box every time we play here,” Powers said. “It hasn’t been any different in my [eight] years since I’ve been in the league. You just have to deal with it.”
The two teams will play again on Friday night at Munn at 6:35 p.m.
Maloney hopes the Spartan freshmen can contribute tomorrow night and the rest of the season like they did on Thursday.
“The freshmen class, I can’t say enough about them,” he said. “They’ve really come out this year and played well. That’s going to help out the older guys. The upperclass can’t do it buy themselves.”