EAST LANSING, Mich. — Quinnipiac players had to be gushing like teenage girls at a Backstreet Boys concert when they saw freshman Matt Migliaccio start in goal for MSU instead of Hobey Baker winner Ryan Miller on Saturday.
Unfortunately, the results proved to be the same for Quinnipiac against Migliaccio as it was Friday against Miller, as No. 6 Michigan State came away with a 3-1 win Saturday at Munn Ice Arena to complete the weekend sweep of its MAAC foes.
Freshman winger Steve Jackson, junior winger Brian Maloney and junior defenseman John-Michael Liles provided the offense, and the staunch Spartan defense only forced Migliaccio to make 11 saves in helping Miller’s freshman backup get his first win of the year.
The Spartans earned the sweep after beating Quinnipiac 4-1 on Friday night.
“I thought tonight’s game in the second period had a little more spunk to it,” MSU head coach Ron Mason said. “When they started to get some offensive opportunities, it opened up and that’s what we really needed because we were playing in their end so much. We couldn’t get to the front of their net and their goalie was making some really good stops, so consequently an up and down game favored us.”
Taking advantage of Miller’s presence on the bench instead of in the crease, Quinnipiac struck first 4:49 into the first period when sophomore winger Ryan Morton skated in on the wing off a nifty pass from freshman winger Chris White and slipped the puck past Migliaccio.
MSU answered just 1:02 later when Jackson fired a shot from a bad angle that somehow eluded Quinnipiac Jamie Holden to tie the game 1-1.
Most of the second period featured a festival of good goaltending by Migliaccio and especially Holden, whose 13 saves in the period to kept his team in the thick of things.
One shot Holden couldn’t stop came with 1:15 left in the second, when Maloney fired a rocket from the left faceoff circle that perfectly landed in the net just underneath the crossbar for a 2-1 MSU lead.
The momentum seemed to carry over to the third period, as Liles scored his second goal in as many nights when he found himself all alone in front of the Quinnipiac net after taking a perfect centering pass from freshman winger Brock Radunske and beat Holden to make it 3-1 MSU just 1:17 into the third.
Maloney said his eventual game-winning goal was the boost the Spartans needed to carry them the rest of the game.
“It was a 1-1 tie there for a while and it’s always important to get one late in [periods] or early in [periods],” he said. “That was a bonus for us.”
The weekend marked the first time Quinnipiac had ever played against a CCHA opponent and, likewise, the first time Michigan State had ever gone up against a team from the MAAC.
Despite the enormous challenge of playing David to Michigan State’s Goliath, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said his team gained a lot this weekend despite the two losses.
“I think the biggest thing that we’re going to take out of it is the confidence,” he said. “With the right bounces, we could have tied or beat Michigan State.”
Quinnipiac will next play a home-and-home series against AIC next weekend, while Michigan State will also have a home-and-home series next week against in-state rival Western Michigan.
Afterwards, Mason was relieved to have the weekend series against an underdog opponent over with and was already looking ahead to the heavy brunt of conference action coming up.
“Obviously, it was a no-win situation for us,” he said. “We had to win these games. If we didn’t, it would have been right up on (U.S.) College Hockey Online for example. I thought our kids played the way they had to tonight and now we’re going into the regular season of the CCHA, which is a lot tougher hockey.”