EAST LANSING, Mich. — For MSU head coach Ron Mason, it couldn’t have been a more fitting conclusion.
In what turned out to be his last game in Munn Ice Arena, there was no fanfare, little emotion, and of course, a 4-2 Michigan State win over Bowling Green to give the Spartans a 2-0 series win and advance them to the CCHA Semifinals on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Junior winger Steve Jackson, junior defenseman John-Michael Liles, freshman center Jim Slater, and senior defenseman Andrew Hutchinson accounted for the scoring to help send Mason out accordingly.
“I thought last Saturday night was good closure for me,” said Mason, referring to a video tribute that honored him after last Saturday’s home regular-season finale against Ferris State. “Because that’s where I really had the chance to
thank the people that have come to support us for 23 years. Tonight, all I was thinking about was trying to win the game and get to Joe Louis to be honest with you.”
The only downer for MSU was Mason revealing after the game that junior winger Brian Maloney, who suffered two broken ribs and a bruised kidney after ramming into the boards attempting a check on Friday night, is out for the season.
Maloney, who was tied for the team lead with 33 points entering Saturday’s game, is hospitalized and won’t be released until Tuesday.
In the locker room after the game, the MSU players sang the school’s fight song with Maloney, who was on the phone from his hospital room.
“It’s really unfortunate and what [Saturday] did, is that it gave us a game to play without him and play well,” Mason said.
Michigan State opened the scoring 3:43 into the first when Bowling Green goalie Tyler Masters failed to corral a high shot by Spartan freshman center Lee Falardeau, leaving a loose puck in front of the crease for Jackson, who pushed it past Masters.
Bowling Green then put itself in a huge hole with 14:02 left in the second when sophomore center Roger Leonard and junior center Tyler Knight both went to the box 53 seconds apart, giving MSU two-man advantage for 1:07.
Just when it looked like Bowling Green would escape the situation unscathed after killing off the Leonard penalty, Liles fired a shot through traffic from the point that deflected off the skate of Leonard and past Masters with just
eight seconds left in Knight’s penalty, giving MSU a 2-0 lead at 7:50 of the second.
Bowling Green spent the next 2:04 at even strength, a level it wouldn’t see again for nearly seven minutes.
With 10:06 left in the second, Bowling Green winger and assistant captain Scott Hewson got a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for checking MSU freshman winger Mike Lalonde from behind.
All but nine seconds of Hewson’s major expired when sophomore winger Darcy McConvey continued the Falcons’ festival of undisciplined play, receiving another checking-from-behind penalty.
When the parade of penalties was over, the Falcons found themselves giving up just Liles’ goal and were still down just 2-0 entering the third.
For the game, Bowling Green had 25 penalty minutes to Michigan State’s two
Just over five minutes into the third, Bowling Green’s fate was sealed in a classic case of a big save on one end, and a goal on the other.
After MSU goalie Ryan Miller robbed Bowling Green sophomore winger Mark Wires by sticking his glove hand along the ice and stopping a Wires backhand, the puck was cleared to Jackson, who sprung Slater for a breakaway.
Slater made no mistake, beating the Falcon netminder on a backhand of his own to make it 3-0 with 14:43 left.
“To me, that was a turning point in the game,” said Bowling Green head coach Buddy Powers. “If we score there, it’s two-one.”
Frustrated, Bowling Green took two additional penalties in a span of 14 seconds, putting MSU on another two-man advantage. Hutchinson capitalized with a one-timer past Masters from the left faceoff circle to make it 4-0 MSU at 6:34.
Bowling Green spoiled Miller’s shutout in the most unlikely way when Miller misplayed a fluttering shot from center ice by Falcon senior defenseman Marc Barlow. The shot went into the net with 3:07 remaining.
Bowling Green closed out the scoring with 49.4 seconds remaining in the game when senior defenseman Grady Moore took a carom off the boards and put the puck past Miller from the right slot account for the 4-2 margin of victory.
For Powers, it was also a fitting end in that it was a frustrating way to an abysmal season for Bowling Green, which finished 9-25-6.
“I think we never turned the corner,” he said. “We played some games where we played hard early on and we were in them, but could never get the goal that could turn the game in our favor. Right from the start of the season it went