OXFORD, Ohio — The hockey game Saturday night between the Michigan State Spartans and the Miami Redhawks was more of the game everyone expected than the game on Friday night.
It became the game of dueling goaltenders everyone wanted, with Redhawks freshman goalie Steve Hartley stepping between the pipes, while Spartan freshman netminder Dominic Vicari was in net for the Spartans, and the game went down to the wire again, decided in the third period.
Spartan junior forward Adam Nightingale’s shot hit the back of the net early in the third, finally erasing one of the zeros from the scoreboard, and the Spartans came to life, erupting for three quick goals on their way to a 3-1 win to salvage the weekend split.
“It’s just a good two points,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “It would have been very good to go out of here with zero. They’re a good team; they work hard, and they make it tough on you. Any win on the road is good. It makes the trip home a lot nicer.”
The Redhawks piled on the shots early, peppering Vicari and forcing him to work for his eventual 3-1 victory. The Spartans wouldn’t have won the game if it weren’t for Vicari’s dominance in goal — the game would have been about 15-0.
Okay, maybe not, but the Redhawks certainly had their chances to take the lead.
The first good chance came when Matt Christie found himself all alone in the left circle with the puck on his stick, but Vicari, whom Comley elected to play instead of rotating in junior netminder Matt Migliaccio, made the save to keep the Redhawks off the board.
The next Redhawk scoring chance came miunutes later when senior forward Greg Hogeboom received a pass while wide on Vicari’s doorstep, but his shot went over the back of the net and the Spartans cleared.
The best chance of the period belonged to the Spartans however, as Mike Lalonde took a bad-angle shot while the Spartans were on the power play that trickled through Redhawk freshman goaltender Steve Hartley’s pads to lay just outside the goal line and play was whistled dead because referee Matt Shegos lost sight of the puck before the Spartans could tap the rubber past Hartley.
The second period was up-and-down with outside shots and a few close calls, including a power-play opportunity for the Redhawks, but both teams played well defensively to make sure the scoreboard still registered zeros at the end of two.
Exactly 42:03 into the game, Nightingale, after battling for the puck in the corner, fought off a Redhawks defender to skate around the net all alone and shove the puck past Hartley. Fifty-six seconds later, Spartan junior forward Ash Goldie took a pass from junior captain Jim Slater and shot it past a sprawling Hartley to give the Spartans a two-goal lead as he scored the eventual game-winner.
Then freshman forward Tom Goebel scored less than seven minutes later, just off the penalty kill, to increase the Spartan lead to three. The Redhawks’ freshman forward Matt Christie spoiled Vicari’s bid for his second shutout of the season and his career at 18:27 of the third.
Then Redhawk Head Coach Enrico Blasi called a timeout and decided to pull Hartley for the extra attacker, hoping his highly offensive team would be able to score two goals in one minute, 33 seconds.
“Once you score that goal and there’s two minutes left, you still believe that you can come back, so we didn’t have any quit in us, but obviously the win is the most important,” Redhawk senior forward Greg Hogeboom said.
Unfortunately for the Redhawks, the Spartans held them off, and the game ended 3-1 in favor of the Spartans.
“It was a struggle again; it’s a tough building to play in,” Comley said. “They worked very, very hard. It looked like we started to get better as the game went on.”
“Obviously we didn’t play for sixty minutes and they did,” Hogeboom said. “We really wanted this sweep and didn’t manage to get it, but live to play another day, I guess.”
Redhawk assistant captain and senior forward Mike Kompon agreed.
“It’s nice we got a split, but it would have been nicer to get a sweep. We’re going into the third period tied and we just gave up and good teams don’t do that.
“It’s going to come down to the last period; that’s what happens when good teams play each other. Last night we showed them what we had in the third period and tonight we folded.”
The Spartans play two games at Munn Arena in East Lansing against Wayne State on Thursday and Friday night while the Redhawks continue their homestand with two games against Alaska-Fairbanks Friday and Saturday.