E. LANSING, Mich. — Coming into tonight’s game, Nick Sucharski, Jared Nightingale and Corey Potter combined for just seven career goals, but the trio supplied all of the offense for the Spartans in a 3-1 victory over Wayne State on Friday.
All three goals were scored from the center point with a pair coming from defensemen, something that coach Rick Comley has stressed for the second half.
“We need to try to create more offense from our defense; we are doing whatever we can to milk some offense out of it.”
“Everybody is expected to chip in and when our big scorers aren’t scoring it’s perfect for the guys who are back there to contribute, said Potter. “The defense putting the puck on the net is an important thing; you see it in the pros all the time because there are tips and rebounds and it’s a great way to put points on the board.”
The other score marked Sucharski’s first collegiate goal.
“My first goal was quite a rush,” said Sucharski. “I’m still in shock. It takes a huge weight off of my shoulders. Coming back, I was hesitant, I was worried about making a mistake. but a long talk with Coach this week really helped to boost my confidence.”
The heralded freshman from Toronto is beginning to get his legs after a first semester bout with mononucleosis. “Sucharski has been a scorer all his life, and we haven’t seen much out of him yet, so that should help him a lot,” said Comley.
The trio’s goalscoring is a welcome addition to an offense that has struggled to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis. The Spartans are averaging just 3 goals per game while allowing 2.8, a telling stat for a team that owns a 9-8-5 record.
“We make goalies look pretty good… We don’t score easily,” said Comley. “We work hard, but we don’t get the puck to the back of the net very easily and it’s frustrating, but I’m a big believer that if you work hard and create that many shots ultimately the puck is going to go in.”
After two periods of play, this was shaping up to be exactly the type of game that Michigan State wanted to avoid. Despite having 75 attempts, a 33-7 shot advantage, and several quality scoring chances, the Spartans could not find a way to get the puck past Wayne State goaltender and captain Matt Kelly.
“The whole idea was to keep the game close so that we had a chance down the stretch to pull it out,” said WSU coach Bill Wilkinson. “They hang around and hang around and that’s the type of danger with a team that wants to play that way,” said Comley.
At 8:54 of the third period, Nightingale finally gave MSU some breathing room with a seeing-eye wrist shot from the center point, the Spartans’ third goal of the evening from roughly the same spot in the zone.
“Those are the type of goals sometimes in games like this that do go in, and then (David) Booth gets that backdoor pass from (Bryan) Lerg and that won’t go in the net,” said Comley.
Kelly was most of the reason the Warriors were able to remain close in the third period, but even a hot goaltender has a breaking point. He finished the night with an impressive 38 saves.
Jeff Lerg stopped 18 of 19 shots including all 12 in the third period for the win.
Potter opened the scoring for Michigan State with a power play goal. The senior assistant captain blasted a one-timer from the center point that deflected off of Kelly’s pads and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
The Warriors quickly answered with a goal of their own. Derek Punches slipped a wrist shot between Lerg and the far post from beyond the top of the right circle to end the scoring in the first frame.
Just 16 seconds into the second, Sucharski fired a slapshot from the center point that beat Kelly low to the stick side for a power play goal and a 2-0 MSU lead.
The teams will finish their season series tomorrow night. Despite a 3-1 victory, the Spartans cannot take Wayne State lightly. “Tomorrow is a big game for us. We know just how much it means if we want to play in the NCAA tournament,” said Comley.