EAST LANSING, Mich. — Spartan head coach Rick Comley finally got the effort he wanted from his players. Unfortunately for Michigan State, that effort wasn’t enough against first-place Miami Saturday at Munn Arena, as the RedHawks completed a weekend sweep with a 3-1 victory.
“To sweep on the road is huge,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi. “I thought it was a great game today. Both sides played really, really well — two good fighters going at it. Again it came down to the wire, which we expected, and that’s a credit to the two teams that played really hard all weekend.”
The Spartans started sloppily, not connecting on passes and giving up odd-man rushes, and not clearing the traffic in front of the net.
The first goal was an indicator of that fact. RedHawk junior forward Todd Grant ended up open in front of the net as the Spartan defenders failed to pick him up, and he shoved the puck past a sprawling Dominic Vicari two minutes into the game.
Ten minutes into the period, the RedHawks had a chance to increase their lead to two when a turnover in the Miami zone led to a 2-on-1 rush the other way, but luck was on the Spartans’ side as the puck stayed out of the net.
The Spartans had plenty of chances, but the net proved to be too small a target twice as Spartan players were presented with an open net and couldn’t put the puck in it.
Late in the second period, Spartan freshman defenseman A.J. Thelan got to showcase his wicked slapshot on the power play. After taking a pass from freshman teammate Chris Lawrence, Thelan let his rocket shot fly, and junior assistant captain Mike Lalonde tipped it past RedHawk goaltender Brandon Crawford-West to give the Spartans the equalizer.
Unlike Friday night, however, the team that scored the second goal of the game was not to score the third. RedHawk freshman Andy Nelson blew a shot past Vicari at the end of the second to give Miami the lead for the second time that afternoon on the goal that would eventually be the game-winner.
The first seven minutes of the third were chock full of Spartan scoring opportunities, the best of which was when junior captain Jim Slater was out in front of Crawford-West by himself, but the Miami goaltender snapped up the puck before Slater could get a stick on it.
Crawford-West gave up several juicy rebounds, but the Spartans couldn’t take advantage — or make them hit the back of the net. Instead, the Miami defense was there to bat the puck out of the reach of the Spartans, or shots went wide.
The last 13 minutes, the RedHawks clamped down — and when the Spartans pulled Vicari for the extra attacker in the final minute of the third, Marty Guerin, one of the heroes Friday night, shoved the puck into the empty net to solidify the victory.
“It takes so much energy when you’re fighting from behind — that’s why this game is so much easier when you get the lead. You had to get the lead. Scoring was so difficult, it was almost miraculous when a puck went in — you were surprised to see it go in,” Comley said.
“We certainly had good opportunities, and I thought West played very, very well. The kids worked hard all weekend; there’s just nothing to show for it.”