EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State jumped out of the gates to a 3-0 first period lead and never looked back, beating Wayne State by a 5-1 score on Saturday.
David Booth and captain Drew Miller had a goal each in the first and third periods to lead MSU.
For Booth, it was a welcome-back weekend after missing much of the first half with a nagging injury.
“It’s finally coming and hopefully it keeps going. . . . The biggest thing for me is staying healthy. If I can stay healthy, then I’ll start playing better each game and goals will just come,” said Booth.
The five MSU goals marked the first time since a win over Northern Michigan on 11/5/05. Saturday’s win over WSU was also the first time the Spartans have completed a weekend sweep since that same series with NMU.
“To finally get two wins is big no matter who you are playing,” said Booth. “The past few years I’ve been here, I always remember losing a game that you are really supposed to win, so it’s good to get two wins when you are supposed to get them.”
“This is obviously much needed. Maybe they are building on something,” said Comley.
The biggest thing is that we got some goals this weekend,” said Miller. “That’s something we’ve been struggling with all season, inconsistent scoring. Going into the next weekend, we need to take that positive and good team play back into league play.”
Although goal scoring appears to be the Achilles for Michigan State, Comley contends that a rejuvenated lineup will provide depth and scoring punch.
I don’t think our issues are up front,” said Comley. “It’s about playing with the right confidence, and defense and goaltending. I really believe that we have the talent to score. We may not be creative at the blue line, but we have enough forwards that have the ability to score.
When the Spartans were successful in the early season, the freshmen played a large role in the offense. After scoring in the GLI, Justin Abdelkader added another goal tonight. The freshman and Detroit draft pick is gaining momentum and confidence as of late, averaging a point per game in his last six contests. Much of it comes from the re-emergence of his line with fellow freshmen Tim Kennedy and Tim Crowder.
Matt Kelly, who made 38 saves last evening, stopped 42 shots tonight. Although he allowed 5 goals, some of it was due to bad luck while the rest was just the result of an overpowering Spartan offense.
Jeff Lerg played well this weekend, earning the sweep over the Warriors. The decision to give him consecutive starts, however, was the product of an injury to incumbent Dominic Vicari as well as Lerg’s strong play.
“Dom has an infected eye, and I found that out after the game last night. We sent him to the doctor today to get some medication. I liked the opportunity, and I thought Jeff played well enough to earn back-to-back games, and it creates an interesting situation,” said Comley.
The Warriors cut the lead to two with 6:25 left to play in the second period on a pretty goal by Nate Higgins. With Wayne State on the power play, Jason Baclig fired a shot off the right post. Higgins batted the ricochet out of the air and into the back of the net for a 3-1 score.
“We played hard and with good intensity, we just couldn’t capitalize on some of the mistakes that State made,” said WSU coach Bill Wilkinson. “They didn’t make many, and when they did Lerg was very good.”
Shortly after the goal, the Warriors had a golden opportunity to draw close with three Spartans in the penalty box, but it was short-circuited when Kelly attempted a long outlet pass in front of the Wayne State bench that caught his teammates in a line change and resulted in a penalty for too many men on the ice.
“We had guys coming off and guys going on. It just happens sometimes when you get too anxious jumping on and guys are tired and not quite hustling onto the bench,” said Wilkinson.
“Before that we had the 5-on-3 power play after taking a timeout and we just could not capitalize. That was the key issue.”
The win gives the Spartans a perfect 3-0 record against a pesky Warrior squad. Michigan State will host Alaska-Fairbanks next weekend while WSU travels to Bemidji.