BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Michigan State Spartan head coach Rick Comley talked about the few differences between a third-place CCHA team and a 12th place CCHA team last night. Tonight, the Falcons proved Comley’s comments correct as they handed first-place Michigan State a 3-2 loss at the BG Ice Arena.
For the Spartans, it is their sixth consecutive split decision in a series this season. For the Falcons, it was their fourth conference win against a team at, or near, the top of the standings.
Once again, goaltending proved to be the difference in the game as BG’s Jordan Sigalet put in a busy night at the office, stopping 40 of MSU’s 42 shots, including 21 saves in the final period. He stopped a total of 79 shots on the weekend in the series split.
“We picked up where we left off last night,” said BG coach Scott Paluch. “Last night was a tough outcome for us, the way we played. We played 60 strong minutes both nights. Sigalet was really strong for us when we needed him to be. He did everything necessary to give us the opportunity to win these games.”
For the Spartans, it was the same old weekend song — win one, lose one. Michigan State has not swept a series since Ferris State last October 31 and November 1.
“We’ve had games where we had poor effort in the second game in the series,” said Comley. “There was no poor effort tonight. The kids played their hearts out tonight.”
The Spartans had a number of chances to take control of the game, especially in the third period, but great goaltending combined with strong defense and a good penalty kill gave the game to the Falcons.
“Right from the start of the third period, we took some penalties we didn’t need to take,” said Paluch. “We gave Michigan State some momentum, but we played well down the stretch.”
The Falcons took eight penalties in the period, giving the Spartans a number of power-play chances, including a pair of 5-on-3′s. Michigan State was only able to connect one time throughout the night, however, with the man-advantage. Much of that was due to the abilities of Sigalet.
“The whole team stepped up and played hard to kill off the penalties,” said the junior netminder. “I just managed to see the puck at the last second and get in front of them as best I could.”
Bowling Green got on the board first. 2:31 into the opening period, right winger Ryan Minnabarriet netted a power-play goal, beating Dominic Vicari from just outside the crease for the 1-0 BG lead. For Minnabarriet, it was his third goal of the season. BG’s goal gave them the early confidence they would need throughout the night.
“We were better mentally prepared than last night,” said Minnabarriet. “Our captains stepped up in the locker room and made sure we were ready.”
The Falcons increased their lead to 2-0 late in the second period. Defenseman Chris Pedota blistered a shot off Vicari which came out to the left circle. Erik Eaton was there and found the net from a near-impossible angle to give his team a lead it would not relinquish.
The Spartans took advantage of a pair of Bowling Green penalties early in the third period. Colton Fretter came close to putting the Spartans on the board early in the 5-on-3 as his shot hit a post and caroomed across the crease behind Sigalet.
Michigan State connected for real just seconds later as Chris Snavely fed a pass to Ash Goldie who one-timed it from the point to beat the BG goaltender.
Bowling Green increased their lead to 3-1 at the 3:47 mark of the period. Minnabarriet netted his second goal of the night, picking up a pass from Jon Sitko and depositing it into the net to recapture a two-goal lead.
The Spartans answered just under three minutes later. Goldie picked up his second goal of the night, a wrist shot from between the circles that beat Sigalet glove side.
The Spartans had their chances down the stretch, peppering Sigalet with 23 third period shots, but the BG netminder stood tall in recording his sixth win of the season.
The win was very big for the Falcons. As the 12th place team in the league, they sit just eight points out of first place in of the most tightly-contested CCHA races in history.
“This was huge,” said Sigalet. “We have a lot of games left and we can move up [in the standings] a lot. Beating a team like this can help us move up a lot quicker and make other teams notice us.”
Paluch stressed the importance of this game as it relates to the league standings, as well.
“It’s outstanding,” said Paluch of the conference points race. “When you’re looking up at a lot of teams, it’s doubly outstanding. It stresses the importance of getting points on the weekend. These points each weekend are big.”
The Falcons will travel to Fairbanks next weekend to take on the Nanooks. The Spartans will try to regroup next weekend as they head to Columbus for a two-game set against the Ohio State Buckeyes.