EAST LANSING, Mich. — Having given up three goals or more in his previous three games, it appeared as if Michigan State goalie and Hobey Baker winner Ryan Miller was mired in slump.
Consider the slump over.
Miller returned to his usual spectacular self on Friday night, stopping 30 shots to record his 21st career shutout in a 4-0 Spartan win over Bowling Green in front of 6,636 fans at Munn Ice Arena.
Coupled with Thursday night’s 6-3 win, MSU swept the two-game weekend series to improve its record to 5-2-1 overall and in league play.
Bowling Green dropped to 1-4-2, 1-3-1.
“I knew tonight was going to be a lot closer game, a lot tighter and they were definitely going to be motivated,” Miller said.
30 saves might have been a little bit more of a workload than Miller has on a normal night, but he said it played to his advantage.
“It felt great to be a part of the game like that,” he said. “I think that the more shots I get, I feel like I’m in the game. When you’re part of the game, part of the flow, it seems to work out better.”
For all of his yeoman’s work, however, Miller ended up being the second star of the night. The first belonged to freshman winger Kevin Estrada, who scored two goals in the game.
After entering last night’s game without a collegiate goal, Estrada now finds himself with three, after the two he scored on Friday and one last Saturday.
“It’s nice to get that pressure off,” said Estrada, who was recruited by Bowling Green before choosing MSU. “It’s always in the back of your head: ‘When are you going to get it, when are you going to get it?’ Now I just feel a lot more relaxed and confident.”
Estrada opened the scoring 9:18 into the first period when he got a rebound after a bad-angle shot off the stick of defenseman Brad Fast and put the puck into the wide-open net to put MSU up 1-0.
Just under seven minutes later, Miller either made the save of the season so far — if you’re an MSU fan — or was the beneficiary of a bad call by referee Brian Aaron if you’re a Bowling Green supporter. After a breakdown defensively by the Spartans in their own end, Falcon forwards Austin deLuis and Greg Day skated in virtually two-on-zero against Miller.
DeLuis threw a perfect cross-ice pass to Day, who fired the puck on what seemed like an open net.
A sprawled-out Miller reached with his glove, snatched the puck in mid-air and held on just before he and the puck crossed the goal line.
Aaron ruled the play no goal.
“He just said from where he was standing, he couldn’t tell where the puck was when he blew the whistle,” Bowling Green head coach Buddy Powers said. “Our guys thought it was in the net.”
Miller didn’t quite see it that way.
“Obviously they were a little bit ticked off about the call, but I thought it was a good play,” he said.
The Spartans still held onto their 1-0 lead when Steve Jackson put home a shot after a scramble in front of Falcons’ goalie Jordan Sigalet to put MSU up 2-0 1:48 into the second.
Sigalet got the start Friday after replacing senior goalie Tyler Masters in the third period of Thursday’s game.
“I thought he played with poise,” Powers said of Sigalet, who made 28 saves on the night. “He’s a big guy; he takes up a lot of room. It was a pretty good first outing for him.”
MSU senior captain Adam Hall made it 3-0 MSU at 5:40 of the first period after he came from behind the Falcons’ goal and chipped a backhand above Sigalet’s shoulder.
Replays showed both Hall and freshman winger Jim Slater got their stick on the puck, but Hall was credited with his third goal of the season.
Estrada capped off the scoring with his second of the night at 11:24 of the third period when he deked Sigalet from the slot on a Spartan power play and slipped a backhand into the open goal.
For MSU, the series sweep stretched its unbeaten streak over the Falcons to 10 games.
For Powers and Bowling Green, it was more frustration against the CCHA’s top team.
“I just told the guys if you want to be a good team then take a lesson out of this weekend on how hard you have to play to win,” he said. “They won battles around our net, and we didn’t win battles around their net. That’s where the game is won.”