EAST LANSING, Mich. — After a Friday loss to unranked St. Lawrence in which Michigan State had trouble getting the puck to the net, the Spartans dominated the scoreboard on Sunday, besting eighth-ranked New Hampshire by a 5-1 score.
From start to finish, MSU (1-1-0) used a strong cycle to keep the play in UNH’s (2-1-1) zone and create scoring chances. The end result was a game that saw a speedy Wildcat team look tired and hesitant while the Spartans registered 51 shots and five goals.
“They moved the puck very well,” said New Hampshire coach Dick Umile. “5-on-5 we had a very difficult time handling them; they executed very well.”
New Hampshire could attribute part of the loss to another slow start. After giving up the first goal to Michigan the other night, the Wildcats rallied in the second to take the lead. Sunday was a different story, as the Spartans piled up the goals after building a 2-0 lead.
“The first period of these two games, we really got outshot and didn’t play very well,” said Umile. “I’m disappointed with the way we played today, not taking anything away from the way Michigan State played. We weren’t ready to go; we had no legs and it was disappointing.”
“The officiating was more like old-time hockey … Not that I disagree with it, but there were very few power plays and I think that helped us,” said Spartan coach Rick Comley. “[The flow] helped us to get everyone involved early.”
“It’s a tough game to be a defenseman in right now,” said Comley. “You can’t use your stick defensively. To protect [against] outside speed is almost impossible. They have a couple defensemen who had a tough time with our forwards going wide on them.”
One of those speedy forwards who exploited the perimeter of UNH’s defense with speed was MSU’s Colton Fretter. A healthy scratch on Friday, Fretter cracked the lineup on Sunday and made the most of his opportunity. The junior forward paced Michigan State’s high-octane offense, notching two goals including the game-winner.
“He got a chance to play tonight and obviously earned [the right] to play next Friday,” said Comley. “You want people competing with each other; that makes the hockey team better. Goals like that give us a big boost.”
Youth was served on Sunday as the Spartans saw two freshmen score their first collegiate goals. Bryan Lerg helped to put things away for good in the second period, scoring an extra-attacker goal on a delayed penalty to put State up 3-0. Jim McKenzie added the fourth, beating Wildcat goaltender Kevin Regan off the draw.
Regan, a freshman in his second career start, played strongly despite surrendering the five Spartan goals.
“I thought he played great. He was left out to dry, out there by himself. Except for the one that bounced off his glove, he hung right in there and made some great saves,” said Umile.
The Wildcats broke up Dominic Vicari’s bid for a shutout midway through the third period. On the back end of a 5-on-3 power play, Brian Yandle fired a nifty diagonal pass to the far post, leaving Brett Hemingway with a tap-in for UNH’s lone goal of the game.
Vicari made 30 saves on 31 shots for the victory, several to protect the early Spartan lead.
Captain Jim Slater got the ball rolling for Michigan State, notching a power-play goal eight minutes into the first period. Linemate Mike Lalonde collected the puck on the right-side boards and fed to Tommy Goebel on the goal line. Goebel threaded the needle with a centering pass to Slater, who tipped it past Regan for a 1-0 lead.
The power-play tally was the first for Slater and the Spartans, who had gone 0-for-11 to start the season. Fretter’s second goal was also on the man advantage, leaving the Spartans 2-for-4.
After salvaging its weekend, Michigan State will try to take momentum into conference play as it heads up to Northern Michigan for a two-game set. New Hampshire looks to rebound against Mercyhurst next weekend.