EAST LANSING, Mich. — It’s no secret that Michigan State has been snake-bitten in the goal scoring department this season, but the Spartans poured it on against Lake Superior to the tune of an 8-0 win Friday night. Bryan Lerg led all scorers with four points, including his first career hat trick.
For MSU, Friday’s matchup with Lake Superior featured the same game plan, but with an entirely different result.
“We’re trying to stress quality of play. We moved the puck well, did a lot of things well and the puck just happened to go in,” said Spartan coach Rick Comley. “All year long, we couldn’t beg or steal a goal and tonight we got eight [goals] for the first time — that’s about three games worth for us.
“You never think that you’re going to win by that many goals,” said Comley. “They’re a good defensive team and their goaltending has been outstanding. The puck went in and really they didn’t give up bad goals.”
“We’re still in awe of the venue and the fact that Michigan State played very well. They were very good tonight,” said Laker coach Frank Anzalone.
Fresh out of the gate, the Spartans exploded for four first-period goals. Lerg opened the scoring for State, picking up a fat Jeff Jakaitis rebound at the bottom of the left circle and firing the puck into a nearly-empty net.
Captain Jim Slater put MSU up by a pair early, converting on a two-on-one with Ash Goldie. Defenseman Jared Nightingale sent a long cross-ice pass to Goldie, who knifed through the Lakers’ defense before flipping a saucer pass to Slater. Slater didn’t receive the puck cleanly but managed to settle it before breaking a dish high to the stick side.
“Ash played with Jimmy last year. He can handle the puck and shoot and score and he’s a smart player,” said Comley. “I felt Tommy [Goebel] might benefit from being away from Jimmy. For the first time all year it looked like we had three lines that looked dangerous.”
Just 16 seconds later, Mike Lalonde made it 3-0 in favor of the Spartans. The senior one-timed a blast through traffic past Jakaitis with the assists going to Slater and Goldie.
Anzalone attempted to stem the tide by making a goaltending change following the Spartans’ three-goal outburst, but Matt Violin would fare no better, giving up a goal to David Booth just four minutes later.
MSU showed no signs of slowing up to start the second period, as Drew Miller deposited a rebound into the back of the net just 13 seconds into the frame. The sophomore assistant captain netted his 12th goal of the season to give him the team lead with seven power-play tallies.
Five minutes later, Lerg notched his second goal of the night, one-handing a loose puck that trickled through the crease from behind the net.
Not to be outdone, David Booth added his second of the night with three minutes remaining in the second to put the Spartans up 7-0 after two. Again, the junior forward benefited from a broken play. Defenseman Chris Snavely couldn’t handle a pass streaking down the right wing, but was able to kick the puck over to Booth, who appeared to catch Violin off balance with a low shot across the grain.
Lerg turned his first career trick late in the third period on another loose puck down low. This time the puck trickled in from the side of the net.
“If we don’t learn how to battle the Michigan States of the world, we’ll always be in 12th place,” said Anzalone. “Even though Michigan State played really well, there were five goals that people watched them score.”
Booth, in his first game back from illness in nearly two weeks, added an assist to his two goals in the contest. “I wondered if he would fatigue really quickly, but he looked fine in practice,” said Comley. “Maybe he played more of a controlled, smart game tonight and was in good spots. You just don’t want to have to lose 20 pounds to do it.”
Nightingale, the most unlikely Michigan State playmaker, recorded three helpers in the first frame after being held scoreless through his first 19 games this season.
Dominic Vicari posted the shutout in limited action for the Spartans. The sophomore goalkeeper stopped all 18 shots he faced en route to his 11th career shutout
Jakaitis and Violin combined to stop 32 of 40 with the starter taking the loss.
Both teams will meet again tomorrow evening at Munn Arena.