DETROIT, Mich. — Thursday night, there were eleven goals scored in the game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Lake Superior State Lakers in Sault Ste. Marie. Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, there were three. And two of them belonged to the Spartans, which was enough for a 2-1 victory.
Spartan junior captain Jim Slater scored a key goal at a key time to give the Spartans the win, while Laker goaltender Jeff Jakaitis kept his team in the game as he made 45 saves. In fact, it took 18 minutes and 19 seconds for the Spartans to solve freshman Jakaitis, although it appeared they had scored much earlier — about 14 minutes earlier.
A heavy amount of traffic in front of the net allowed Spartan freshman defenseman A.J. Thelen’s rocket slapshot from the point to go where Jakaitis’ vision couldn’t, for the first point by either team. 14 minutes earlier, Spartan freshman forward Drew Miller thought he hit the net, just behind the crossbar, but referee Kevin Hall waved it off, and the play continued.
The Spartans also controlled the flow of the game in the first period, taking 14 shots, and allowing Lake State only five. Although both teams had a great chance to change the scoreboard in the second, the score remained the same at the end of the period, 1-0 in favor of the Spartans.
Slater skated into the zone up the right side and tried to slide the puck between Jakaitis’ legs, and a trailing Spartan tried to as well, but the puck managed to stay out of the net. Later in the period, Laker sophomore forward Nathan Ward found himself with the puck on his stick in front of the net, all alone, but his point-blank shot was stopped by Vicari and then batted off to the side for his teammates to skate out of the zone.
In the third period, the Lakers did pull the score even just over four and a half minutes in, when freshman Barnabus Birkeland’s slap shot deflected off Spartan Mike Lalonde’s stick to get past Vicari.
And then, with the game tied and the time winding down, tempers started flying. It culminated in a one-on-one match-up behind Dominic Vicari between the Spartans’ senior defenseman Joe Markusen and the Lakers’ junior forward Bo Cheeseman that led to each player being assessed a five-minute major for fighting and a game disqualification, meaning each will miss the next game their respective team plays.
Then coming up with the big play at the right time, Slater managed to find the puck on his stick after it took a weird bounce off the glass behind Jakaitis and backhanded it home to give the Spartans the lead with just under ten minutes left in the game.
“First of all, I just want to say that it was pretty lucky,” Slater said. “I tried just getting the face-off, and getting it down deep, and it just kind of banked off the glass and came right back to me. I had a clear lane to the net and I think I beat him short-side or five-hole — I just put it on net with the backhand.”
Then it was just a matter of protecting the lead, which the Spartans did even with Jakaitis pulled for the extra attacker with 1:27 left in the period.
“It felt good to get the lead. He played well in goal, and they protected the net. It was a good, hard-fought win. I thought Lake State played better than they played the other night,” Spartan Head Coach Rick Comley said. “I thought Thursday night was kind of a fluke. Pucks just went in from everywhere. Here, tonight, you had to work very hard to get anything. This is more Lake Superior hockey, I think, than Thursday night was.”