EAST LANSING, Mich. — Given the new, stricter rules interpretation, the idea that games will be decided by goaltending and special teams is more apparent than ever.
Holding true to the maxim, St. Lawrence rode two power-play goals and netminder Mike McKenna to a 3-1 victory against No. 7 Michigan State at Munn Arena on Friday.
There was no secret to the Saints’ success; they held Michigan State scoreless on the man-advantage while converting on their own. The Saints’ relentless effort on the penalty kill, especially their willingness to sacrifice their bodies blocking shots, held the Spartans scoreless on 11 power plays.
“We have had a good shot-blocking team over the last couple years,” said St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh. “I think we have to play with a sense of desperation and we have got a good group of quality, character guys. Our kids are pretty well-tuned to playing that hard and it was a great effort tonight.”
McKenna had an answer for just about everything that his teammates could not stop short of the net, saving 37 of 38 shots.
“McKenna has been playing tremendous for us, and that goes back to the second half. He was arguably one of the best second-half goaltenders last year, and he’s continuing that.”
St. Lawrence’s early experience in two tight games this season might have helped the Saints, but for MSU coach Rick Comley the game came down to putting the puck in the net
“It’s going to boil down to [our] ability to score, and that makes special teams critical. They blocked a ton of shots and the goaltender played very well. All in all, I do not question the effort; we just could not get the puck to the net,” said Comley.
“We knew we were getting our chances,” said Spartan captain Jim Slater. “We didn’t make our shots count when we had them and we didn’t get traffic in front of the net. It’s frustrating, but somehow we have to find a way to get things done.”
St. Lawrence netted the game winner on a power-play tally to open the second frame. Kyle Rank redirected Stace Page’s shot from the point past Spartan keeper Matt Migliaccio in the first minute, giving the Saints a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
Michigan State peppered McKenna in the third period, but was unable to find an equalizer. Freshman Peder Skinner rang a shot off the post, Slater fanned on a loose puck in the crease, and the Saints killed off two big power plays late in the frame.
Rank added an empty-net goal with 40 seconds left to put the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Despite the loss, Migliaccio was strong in net for the Spartans, who were outshot through two periods. He made 31 saves on 33 shots for the evening.
The first period was largely a feeling-out process for both teams. Michigan State’s Ash Goldie opened the scoring for the Spartans, a case of being in the right place at the right time as the senior converted on a Jim McKenzie rebound that fell right onto his backhand and into an empty net.
Just three minutes later, the Saints answered with a power-play goal. Drew Bagnall unleashed a rocket from the point that Migliaccio could not handle cleanly, making a desperation pad save. Andrzej Sandrzyk collected the rebound and slid it past the sprawled keeper for a 1-1 score.
After managing its first win in the state of Michigan since the 1950s, St. Lawrence will travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan in search of an in-state sweep. Michigan State faces off against No. 8 New Hampshire on Sunday afternoon.