EAST LANSING, Mich. — Friday night’s game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Western Michigan Broncos was one of those that should have ended in a tie.
Both teams deserved to win, playing the entire game with red-hot intensity and the skills to match — goaltenders at the top of their game, and key players making key plays when they had to. In the end, though, the Spartans converted more of their opportunities en route to a much-needed 4-2 win at Munn Arena.
The first period was as even as a period could be, with the score knotted at zero, the shots 10-9 Michigan State, no penalties, and the scoring chances equal at both ends.
Spartan goaltender Matt Migliaccio came up with the big save early, stoning WMU’s Paul Davies, but Bronco netminder Scott Foster returned the favor later. Spartan forward Colton Fretter skated down the right side and passed to a streaking David Booth, whose shot Foster brushed aside with his left pad.
In the second, however, the Broncos capitalized when the Spartans allowed a 3-on-1 break after coughing up the puck over in the neutral zone. Bronco captain Dana Lattery led the charge toward the Spartan net, then decided to keep the puck. That turned out to be a good idea, as his shot hit the opposite corner of the net for the first goal of the evening.
Shortly after the Bronco goal, the Spartans were threatening in front of the Bronco net, and chaos erupted in a line brawl, with an extra Bronco sent to the penalty box for roughing.
On the ensuing power play, Spartan freshman defenseman A.J. Thelen let go a cannon shot from the left point and Mike Lalonde deflected the puck past Foster.
Not willing to go into the locker room with the score knotted at one, the Broncos got their own power-play goal less than two minutes later, and it looked like the Spartans were in trouble for the third time in as many games.
In the third period, however, the Spartans decided enough was enough.
Nine minutes in, A. J. Thelen called for the puck off teammate Ash Goldie’s stick, and let loose a shot that hit the back of the net so hard, referee Mark Wilkins wasn’t sure it went in at all.
Four minutes later, with Lattery in the penalty box, Thelen and Goldie struck again, this time with the assist off Thelen’s stick, while Goldie grabbed the rebound and lifted the puck over a sprawling Foster.
Lalonde added an empty-net goal with 14 seconds left to stave off the Broncos six-man attack and put two points in the win column for the Spartans.
“The kids worked hard,” Bronco head coach Jim Culhane said. “We gave a good effort tonight but unfortunately we don’t come up with any points or anything to show for it. We have nothing to hang our heads about. We’re going to regroup for tomorrow. We play at home and we’re excited for that.”
“It certainly was hard fought,” Spartan head coach Rick Comley said. “Our lineup is very depleted, and I thought it showed, but I thought we battled and fought back, got very good goaltending over the course of the evening, as they did. We’re going to have a war tomorrow, but that’s okay.”
The Spartans and the Broncos will battle over the vulcanized rubber again Saturday night at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo with the game starting late, at 8:05 p.m., due to Western Michigan football Saturday afternoon.