OXFORD, Ohio — Matt Christie had a goal and a pair of assists while Marty Guerin scored the game-winner and added a helper as sixth-ranked Miami took game one of a CCHA set from Michigan State, 5-2, Friday.
MSU falls to 11-8-1 on the year and 7-6-1 in conference play, while the RedHawks improve to 16-6-1, 11-3-1 in CCHA action.
“We allowed two goals off of faceoffs, and looked tired and sluggish at times,” admitted MSU head coach Rick Comley. “We have to bounce back and respond with a good effort tomorrow. We knew it would be a tough series down here, so we need to separate the games from one another, and come back and be a better team tomorrow night.”
Both teams took the ice with a high-energy, up-tempo approach, and the Spartans had the first great scoring chance four minutes in when Tim Crowder — playing at less than 100 percent as he was fighting a flu bug — corralled his own rebound and moved out to the top of the right circle. He ripped a slapshot that rang low off the right post and was smothered by goaltender Charlie Effinger.
The RedHawks countered with a breakaway chance by Matt Christie at the 6:03 mark, but Jeff Lerg was up to the task and turned away the chance with relative ease to keep the game scoreless.
Jeff Lerg came up big again with seven minutes remaining in the opening frame, stifling a two-on-one break by Gary Steffes and Bill Loupee. Steffes brought it up the right side, and passed off to Loupee in the low slot; Lerg recorded the pad save at the left post.
A wild final four minutes sent the RedHawks into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead. Miami finally broke through solved the MSU sophomore netminder at the 16:09 mark, when Christie beat Lerg glove-side off a faceoff deep in the Spartan zone.
Michigan State countered in the final minute of play on a Jim McKenzie tally, his fourth of the season. Bryan Lerg began the sequence when he carried the puck across the offensive blue line and stickhandled around the first defender; a second stepped up to poke the puck away from the centerman, but Tyler Howells corralled the puck on the half-wall and sprinted through the left dot almost down to the goal line.
Howells put a pass onto the stick of McKenzie, who was camped at the top of the crease and lifted the puck over the glove hand of Effinger.
The Spartans fell behind on a goal with just six seconds remaining in the frame. Christie won the faceoff in the MSU zone back to Jarod Palmer at the left point, and the standout first-year player threw the puck through traffic over the glove hand of Lerg for his eighth of the season.
The Miami lead increased to 4-0 with a pair of goals less than four minutes into the middle frame. Just 1:05 into the period, the RedHawks kept the puck in the zone at the half-wall on the right side with a heads-up move, and cycled the puck low.
Christie found Marty Guerin at the left post, where the winger found space between the leg pad of Jeff Lerg and the left post. Three minutes later, a cross-slot pass from Ryan Jones caromed off Bryan Lerg’s stick and past his cousin to push the home team lead to 4-1.
The Spartans had a chance to crawl back in when Miami was whistled for back-to-back infractions less than a minute apart, but MSU could do little on the five-on-three and the RedHawks successfully iced the puck several times during the remaining minute of man-advantage, and Michigan State could not set up anything to generate scoring chances.
Bobby Jarosz spelled Lerg (20 saves) for the third period, making his third appearance of the season. He faced an immediate challenge, making three saves in the opening minutes of the period as the RedHawks had the balance of a power play which carried over from the end of the second frame.
The Spartans cut the lead to 4-2 with a Crowder tally at 12;24. Dan Vukovic chased down a puck dumped deep in the zone by Tim Kennedy, and threw it out into a scrum in front of the net, where Crowder laid a stick on it and beat the netminder with the soft shot stick-side.
Nathan Davis iced the victory for Miami with an empty-net tally with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Jarosz recorded 14 saves in the final period, while Effinger made 22 saves in the victory.
The teams will face off again on Saturday in Oxford in a 7:05 game which will be televised on FSN Detroit.