EAST LANSING, Mich. — Saturday night’s contest between the Michigan State Spartans and the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks was a streak-ending night for the home team, who performed to a 5-0 victory riding the offensive output of their top line and their stonewall freshman goaltender Dominic Vicari, who collected his sixth shut-out of the season.
It was the first time the Spartans completed a home sweep this season, their last sweep at Munn being against the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks in the first round of the CCHA playoffs in 2003. It was also the first time a Spartan goaltender has put up back-to-back shutouts since Ryan Miller held the Miami Redhawks without a point the weekend of November 17 & 18, 2001.
And a less impressive stat — Michigan State’s first shot on net in Saturday night’s contest didn’t come until well into the eighth minute of the first period. Unfortunately for Nebraska-Omaha Maverick freshman goaltender Chris Holt, it was good for the Spartan’s first goal.
With the Mavericks putting on the pressure in the Spartan zone, and the Spartans poor response to said pressure, Spartan sophomore forward David Booth managed to poke the puck away from the Maverick defender at the blueline and sped up the left side with the puck on his stick into Maverick territory. There, he passed it to sophomore linemate Colton Fretter, who was streaking up the middle all by his lonesome. Fretter waited until Holt committed, then caught him out of position as he slid the puck into the left side of the goal.
“It’s frustrating, because it’s a transition goal,” Maverick Head Coach Mike Kemp said. “They get the puck and bump it forward, and they get a nice man advantage rush, and they convert on the man advantage rush. I don’t know if our defenseman read the rush the correct way — he bid on the outside man, the puck slid over, and it was a nice opportunity in front of the net.”
The top Spartan line of freshman Tommy Goebel and juniors Mike Lalonde and Jim Slater continued their offensive streak. In the last six games, the line has tallied 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points and tonight Goebel contributed two goals and an assist, Mike Lalonde had a goal and an assist, and Jim Slater had three helpers.
In the second, just 39 seconds into the period, they found themselves with a 3-on-1 advantage. Goebel poked the puck away from the Maverick defenseman on the blueline, then passed to Slater while he moved into the middle. Slater skated up the right side and passed the puck to Lalonde, who used teammate Goebel as his screen and shot the puck over Holt’s right shoulder.
“Both the first and second goals were opportunities where you find ways to beat yourself,” said Kemp.
“We were trying to make things that weren’t there, trying to create situations, and not taking what they give us. Certainly both those cases were instances where we turned it over and they took advantage of it in transition and finished their opportunities.
“Give them credit; we had very few opportunities, odd man rushes, for ourselves, and the ones that we did have, we didn’t capitalize.”
In the third period, the Spartans continued to build their lead, when Goebel collected his second goal of the evening. Spartan captain Jim Slater won the draw in the Maverick zone, dropped the puck back to senior defenseman Joe Markusen, and Markusen took the shot from the right point. Holt made the save on Markusen’s shot, but let out a rebound that Goebel gobbled up and sent home.
And then, when Michigan State scored its fifth goal on the power play, a deflection off the skate of junior forward Lee Falardeau, the Maverick tempers ignited, and the five skaters for each team exchanged punches for a while. The little scrum resulted in two fighting majors and game disqualifications per team. Freshman forward Drew Miller and junior forward Kevin Estrada were assessed for the Spartans, while the Maverick culprits were sophomore forward Dan Hacker and freshman defenseman Bobby Henderson.
“I thought our guys came out well, and they really did, they worked very hard tonight,” said Kemp. “Even at the end of the second period, down 3-0 I thought our guys still came out in the third with a lot of jump, and they played with determination, but again, we give up an opportunity and they score off the faceoff — that kind of puts the nail in the coffin at six minutes.”
“We played well,” Spartan Head Coach Rick Comley said. “Good goaltending, good penalty-killing, the power-play got big goals each night. Obviously you are playing a team that’s in last place, but I continue to say, we’ve not been far away from getting back-to-back wins at home for quite a while. Two very satisfying wins, although a very disappointing finish to the game — the way it erupted.
“They came out with more jump, I thought. I was impressed the wya they started. We kind of got better as the game went along. I thought it was a better overall game, speed-wise, tonight. I thought we killed penalties very, very well. I thought Dom [Vicari] was outstanding in goal, we got a couple big power-play goals when we needed them, and a very balanced effort.”
The Spartans have a bye-week before they face off against Michigan at Munn Arena on Friday night and Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena, while the Mavericks have a two-game homestand in Omaha against the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks next weekend.