EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State entered Friday having never played Quinnipiac, but quickly gave its no-nickname Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opponent a lesson in what hockey in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association is all about.
Special teams, strong goaltending from Ryan Miller and a flurry of activity around the Quinnipiac net propelled Michigan State to a 4-1 victory before 6,569 at Munn Ice Arena.
Freshman winger Mike Lalonde, senior winger Joe Goodenow, and junior defensemen Brad Fast and John-Michael Liles each scored to help the Spartans extend their home unbeaten streak to 28 games.
“It was a workmanlike job tonight and I thought our players did what they were supposed to do, and that’s what you like in a game like this,” said MSU head coach Ron Mason. “There wasn’t a lot of emotion in the building, but on the other hand, our team responded well and did what they had to do to win.”
The Spartans scored first 9:08 into the first period when Lalonde skated in all alone on Quinnipiac goalie Justin Eddy and beat him on the glove side for his fifth goal of the season.
MSU widened its lead to 2-0 4:28 into the second on the game’s first power play, when Goodenow picked up a rebound off his own tipped shot and slipped the puck between Eddy’s pads and into the net.
The play was double trouble for Quinnipiac, which not only fell two goals down to the vaunted Spartan defense, but also lost Eddy, who reaggravated a hamstring injury he suffered in the weight room last week and had to leave the game.
Freshman Jamie Holden replaced Eddy, whose status is unknown.
“He went down on the play and his leg just gave out,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. “It snapped.”
The Spartans struck again on the power play with just under five minutes remaining in the second period when Fast’s shot got through a screen and past Holden for a 3-0 MSU lead at 15:06 of the second.
It was the Spartans’ 15th goal in their last 39 attempts with the man-advantage.
“I think we’re working hard out there,” Fast said of MSU’s recent power-play success. “On the power play, we don’t have a lot of superstars I don’t think that are worried about getting the puck. We’re grinding in the corners and I think that’s what gets a lot of the goals.”
Quinnipiac spoiled Miller’s bid for yet another shutout with 4:48 left in the game when junior winger Ryan Morton tipped a shot by defenseman Tom Watkins past Miller to cut the Spartan lead to 3-1.
MSU rounded out the scoring with 1:52 left in the game when Liles took a pass from sophomore center Tim Hearon and rifled a shot past Holden for a 4-1 MSU lead.
Quinnipiac, whose Board of Trustees voted in December to get rid of the school’s “Braves” nickname without naming a replacement, also lacked familiarity with Michigan State. The Spartans were QU’s first CCHA opponent in school history.
Pecknold admitted after the game his team might have been a little uptight in playing a powerhouse such as MSU for the first time.
“I thought from an offensive standpoint, we played 60 minutes of nervous hockey with the puck,” he said. “Usually the team will settle down, but we just didn’t have the poise we usually do offensively.”
MSU was coming off a tough 5-4 overtime loss to North Dakota in the finals of last week’s Great Lakes Invitational, which ended its run of four straight GLI championships.
Even though it was a lesser opponent on paper, Fast said Friday was important to prove the Spartans can be a resilient team.
“We had something to prove tonight,” he said. “We didn’t exactly play our best hockey the last game of the GLI so we didn’t want to come out flat tonight. We wanted to prove we can bounce back after a loss like that.”