EAST LANSING, Mich. — On Saturday night in the consolation game of the Ice Breaker Invitational between Michigan State and Minnesota-Duluth, Spartan captain Jim Slater demonstrated why he wears the ‘C.’
With his team trying to rebound from an upset in the semifinals, down 2-0 at the beginning of the second, and with plenty of open ice due to coincidental minor penalties, Slater found the back of the net for the first of his three goals on the night en route to a 5-4 MSU victory.
Slater’s goal, at 2:18 of the second, sparked a fire under the already-hot Spartans, who matched the Bulldogs’ intensity in the first period by outshooting Duluth 15-8, but still found themselves down by two, courtesy of goals by Duluth forwards Junior Lessard and Jeff McFarland.
The ensuing frenzy of Spartans caused a penalty for holding, and the penalty hadn’t even been announced when Spartan defenseman A.J. Thelen’s rocket shot from the point made the back of the net bulge — only three seconds had elapsed in the penalty to Duluth’s Justin Williams.
Slater’s second goal, and the Spartans’ third, came with some assistance from sophomore defenseman Jared Nightengale, who poke-checked the puck off a Bulldog stick at the blue line and Slater came up with it. His shot from just outside the right circle made it past Bulldog goalie Isaac Reichmuth to give the Spartans their first lead of the game.
The Bulldogs refused to go quietly, however, after losing a difficult game of their own the night before. T.J. Caig found himself with the puck on his stick — courtesy of a pass from Beau Geisler — in front of sprawling MSU netminder Matt Migliaccio, and an wide-open cage. Needless to say, his shot made it over the goal line to knot the game at three apiece.
Spartan freshman forward Tom Goebel added another score for his team and Bulldog forward Geisler tallied a goal of his own, and the second period ended with each team registering four goals.
The third period rolled around with the same intensity from the Spartans, and, according to Bulldog coach Scott Sandelin, a lack from his squad.
“Give them credit; they played with much more hunger, much more intensity level, and we tried to get fancy, and maybe we were looking for more goals instead of taking care of the first thing, and that’s your own end,” Sandelin said.
The game winning goal didn’t come until the last two minutes of the third period. A breakdown in the offensive zone late in the third led to a three-on-one for the Spartans, with David Booth holding the puck on his stick, and passing to Slater, who put the puck past Reichmuth for the third time that evening.
With a little over a minute left, the Bulldogs still had plenty of time to get back in the game, but as Reichmuth left for the extra attacher, he froze when the Spartans came up with the puck in the neutral zone. The extra Bulldog was already on the ice.
Whistle blows, too many men, game ends with the Spartans on top 5-4.
Spartan head coach Rick Comley said he learned about what he could expect from his team, especially his junior class.
“Are they going to step forward when games are on the line against good teams, and show that they can do it?’,” he asked. “They did. It wasn’t just goals, it wasn’t just Jimmy [Slater] and his goals.
“Duluth is a very good hockey team. It was a fun game to be a part of at ice level, ’cause it was kinda one of those wild ones.”