EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State scored five unanswered goals, four in the third period, to come back from three goals down and defeat Ferris State 5-3 and advance to the CCHA Super Six in Detroit next weekend.
The Spartan freshman class was a force Saturday as forward Drew Miller scored the game-winning goal and defenseman Ethan Graham tallied his first two goals of the season to aid the Spartan victory.
At 12:08 of the final period, Miller scored his fourth goal of the season when he grabbed the puck behind the net and slid it around the left post. It deflected into the net off goaltender Mike Brown’s skate, giving the Spartans their first lead of the game.
The Bulldogs and the Spartans played much more consistent hockey in the first period of the game Saturday night than they did in the series opener on Friday.
The Spartans didn’t want to allow the same type of breakdowns they had the night before, while the Bulldogs were out to prove they weren’t going to go home quietly. Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said his team came out too cautiously in Friday’s first-round opener en route to a 6-4 loss.
The Bulldogs didn’t make the same mistake Saturday, and 37 seconds into the second period, senior defenseman Simon Mangos made a great move to split the Spartan defense on the power play, then stuffed the puck through Spartan goaltender Dominic Vicari’s legs to give his team its first lead of the series.
1:01 later, the Bulldogs increased their lead to two goals, as junior forward Jeff Legue intercepted a pass at the blue line while shorthanded and shot the puck past Vicari.
The Bulldogs appeared to take full control of the game with a goal from junior forward Carter Thomson at 5:34 of the second, this time at even strength.
But Daniels didn’t feel his team had the game, with so much time left.
“I certainly enjoyed having the lead, and I thought if we continued to carry the play, we would have had a good chance to win, but I never felt like we had it. I think with a three goal lead and two minutes to go, I wouldn’t feel that way,” Daniels said.
Graham scored the Spartans’ first goal and the first of his career just over 12 minutes into second period.
“I knew if we could get on the board in the second that it was still anybody’s game, and fortunately we did,” Spartan coach Rick Comley said.
The Spartans still started the third period down two goals, and the Bulldogs, according to Daniels, came out nervous and tentative. It showed in the statistics. The Spartans outshot the Bulldogs 20-6 in the third — doubling their shot total for the game.
It showed on the scoreboard as well. Graham added his second goal three minutes into the period while his team was on the power play, and Spartan junior forward Mike Lalonde scored goal No. 22 on the season four minutes later.
MSU junior Lee Falardeau added an empty-net goal with 18 seconds left to seal the victory and a place in the Super Six.
“I thought in the third period, we maybe looked like a team that sat back and hoped to win, instead of a team that forced the issue, and for us, that was disappointing,” Daniels said.
“It was tough,” Comley said. “I thought Ferris was ready, they played well, I thought the first period was ok, then we got beat a couple times defensively, but maybe it’s a good win from the standpoint that you had to fight from behind.
“They fought hard. Bobby Daniels is a good coach — defending coach of the year, and they’re defending champion, and they’ve had a tough year, but I thought they battled real hard, so they deserve a lot of credit.
“I’m just so pleased with all the young kids. They’ve grown, they’ve progressed, and tonight they had to get it done for us, and they did.