COLUMBUS, Ohio — A.J. Thelan had two goals to cap a four-point weekend, as Michigan State completed a sweep of Ohio State with a 3-0 shutout.
It was the first road sweep for the Spartans since Feb. 22-23, 2002, in Oxford; more importantly, it was the first time MSU has put together back-to-back wins against a single opponent since Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, when the Spartans swept the Ferris State Bulldogs in a home-and-home series.
“Well, obviously we played very well,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley. “Migliaccio stepped in and played very well.”
Sophomore Matt Migliaccio took over for starter Dominic Vicari at the end of the second period of Friday night’s 4-2 win when Vicari injured his left leg. Migliaccio finished the night with 28 saves.
“I felt really comfortable,” said Migliaccio. “I wasn’t too up or too down. I wanted to prove to the coaching staff that I could play and play well.”
After a scoreless first period, Thelan registered his first of the night at 13:03 in the second, a one-timer from the top of the right circle, to put the Spartans up 1-0. His second goal was nearly identical but came on the power play 58 seconds into the third period.
“The first goal, I just got the puck to the net and hoped that good things would happen. Coach emphasizes always getting pucks on net.”
Adam Nightingale added an empty-net goal at 17:54.
“I thought overall we played better than we did last night,” said Comley. “We seemed to have control at times. They didn’t have the big run on us like they did last night. The timely goal was the power-play goal in the third period.”
As was the case with MSU’s 4-2 win Friday night, the Spartans had a little help from the iron around the cage. Toward the end of the second, Andrew Schembri hit the crossbar on a breakaway and at 14:30 in the third, Dave Steckel hit the right post. The Buckeyes outshot the Spartans 28-25.
“I thought both nights we had enough scoring chances,” said OSU captain J.B. Bittner. “You’ve got to give credit to their goaltending.”
The Buckeyes have dropped six of their past eight CCHA games, all six losses at the hands of clustermates Miami, Michigan, and Michigan State. Bittner said that this weekend’s losses were not for lack of trying.
“I thought the effort was there both nights. First period, we came out hard like we had before. Then they got that first one — and I don’t think we even dropped off. The effort was there, but we hit some pipes and goalie made some good saves.”
Comley said that Friday’s win took some pressure off the Spartans, who were concerned about playing Ohio State, a team they had not beaten before Friday in six attempts.
“They weren’t quite as dangerous as they were last night,” said Comley. “That’s probably [the best] five periods of hockey as we played. I was very worried about coming down here and getting one win, let alone coming out of here with two.”
Thelan, a freshman defenseman, netted his seventh and eighth goals of the season tonight and had two assists last night, his best weekend offensive outing of the season.
“I try to do whatever I can for the team,” said Thelan. I love the offensive part of the game, but I love defense, too.”
With the win, the Spartans (15-12-1, 11-6-1 CCHA) keep pace with the Wolverines, who beat Western Michigan 7-0, to stay tied for second, one point behind league-leading Miami, which bested Nebraska-Omaha 7-1.
“We’re not worried about [first place],” said Comley. “We’re just worried about putting together two games.”
The Buckeyes (15-12-0, 10-9-0 CCHA) will have to wait until the outcome of the late contest between the Falcons and Nanooks in Fairbanks to see where they stand after this weekend’s play. Head coach John Markell said that his team’s effort was there, but the scoring is a concern. “I can’t score for them. I can only show them how.”
Next up for MSU is a two-game home series against Miami, Jan. 30-31, while the Buckeyes travel to Bowling Green for one game Saturday, Jan. 31.