EAST LANSING, Mich. — For a few hours it was April in Munn Arena.
“It had about as much as you would want,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “Both goalies went toe-to-toe; both teams went toe-to-toe. The intensity level was tremendous, the crowd and the teams. It felt like a playoff game.”
Despite the feel of a game that offered fans just about everything they could ask for, they’ll have to wait until Sunday before either side can boast about victory.
Cornell, on the back of goaltender David McKee, was able to escape with a 1-1 tie to remain undefeated.
Looking at the teams, one might expect a slow, grinding, boring game out of a 1-1 Cornell/MSU tilt, but this game was nothing like the Spartans and Big Red of old.
“It’s not like the old 1-1 game where both teams are laying back. Both teams went at each other pretty hard,” said Comley.
McKee, last year’s ECAC co-Rookie of the Year, made a career-high 36 saves.
“It was unusual to see that many shots. We didn’t come out with the intensity we wanted to, so I knew I’d have to play a little better than usual,” said McKee. “I limited scoring chances by controlling rebounds and my team did a good job of picking up sticks”
The Spartans gave it all they had in a tie, managing 86 attempts and 37 shots, but could only beat a stalwart McKee once, even while spending the final minute of both regulation and overtime on the power play.
“They’ve got an All-American goaltender and we threw the kitchen sink at him and he held them in there tight,” said Comley.
David Booth appeared to score a game-winning goal for the MSU in the first period, ricocheting a shot off the post and the goalie, but McKee was able to glove the puck behind his back out of the air before it could fully cross the goal line.
“One save he had, I don’t know how he made it. It hit the post, hit his back, and I don’t know how it ended up in his glove, but I just started laughing because I couldn’t believe it,” said MSU forward Ash Goldie.
Despite his jest, Goldie was the only Spartan to find the back of the net on Friday.
After a severe territorial advantage in the early going, the Spartans struck first with Goldie notching his fifth goal of the season on the man advantage. The senior settled the puck at the top of the circles, slid to his right, and fired a slap shot over McKee’s glove into the net.
McKee, however, had the last laugh against Goldie as he was able to keep the game in hand with a spectacular glove save on a clean breakaway in the third period.
It seemed like Michigan State would break things open early, but they just could not finish second and third chance opportunities against McKee, who played superb positional hockey.
“We had a chance to get up by three or four in the first and I thought their goaltender really held them in there,” said Comley.
Michigan State followed up its goal with a flurry of shots, and finished the period with a 12-3 shot advantage, but Cornell was able to keep the score at 1-0 heading into the locker room.
“We had a chance to get up by 3 or 4 in the first and I thought their goaltender really held them in there,” said Comley.
Despite spending most of the second period killing penalties, the Big Red was able to tie the game at one. Doug Krantz delivered his first collegiate goal, a blast from the point, to draw even after 40 minutes of play. The freshman blueliner was the beneficiary of a little puck luck as he banked the puck off of the left post, MSU goalie Dom Vicari’s pad, and into the back of the net.
The little 5-on-5 hockey played was electrifying, featuring end-to-end action and extremely physical play in both zones. Neither team backed down from its game plan to cycle the puck and force the other to defend for long periods of time.
Once again, McKee was peppered in the second period, but this time he had an answer for everything the Spartans had to offer. And offer they did – through two frames Michigan State had 58 attempts and 27 shots on goal.
Although the Big Red escaped with a tie, coach Mike Schaefer was not impressed with his team’s effort.
“It’s not often that you can come into a tough place like this and not play well and get away with it,” said Schaefer. “I thought the guys were not very strong in front of him on loose pucks. We weren’t very physical. We didn’t pursue the puck. There’s a basic fundamental of work ethic and when you don’t have that it makes for a long night, and it was a long night tonight.”
They did, however, seem to wake up in the third period to nearly take the lead, notching 12 shots on goal, and a few juicy scoring chances. Vicari, however, was equal to the task, making 19 saves for the Spartans.
“We got our act together a little bit, but we had to expend so much energy to get going,” said Schaefer. “It shows some of the maturity that our team has to get back into the game when most teams would have folded.”
Extending strong play into the extra frame, Cornell nearly won the game shorthanded on two different occasions in overtime, both on incredible efforts from Cam Abbott.
Although neither team could find the go-ahead tally, both will look to have the final word for the series on Sunday’s rematch.