College Hockey:
Spartans Stop Colgate

National Championship Banner Unfurled in Pregame Ceremony

— Michigan State unfurled its 2007 National Championship banner before its game with Colgate on Friday evening. Then the Spartans unveiled their potent offense, riding a three-goal first period to a 6-3 win before 5,926 at Munn Ice Arena.

Freshman Dustin Gazley scored a pair of goals in the opening frame to pace MSU.

Michigan State hoisted its national-title banner before Friday's game (photos: Ray Bartnikowski).

Michigan State hoisted its national-title banner before Friday’s game (photos: Ray Bartnikowski).

Gazley’s first of the evening, and his college career, came when rookie right winger curled the left circle on faceoff win by captain Bryan Lerg and fired a wrist shot inside the right post to give MSU a 2-0 lead.

“We talked about the play before the puck dropped. Bryan told me to cut across and he’d get the puck back to me. I just let it go,” said Gazley.

“He might not have come in as a very heralded freshman because he’s 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, but I love playing with the kid. He’s so quick and he sees the ice well and he battles,” said Lerg. “He reminds me a lot of myself.”

Gazley struck again with less than a minute left in the period on a pretty move across the goalmouth. Picking up the puck along goal line to the right of the net, he patiently waited and dragged the puck around a poke check by goaltender Mark Dekanich, slipping it into the vacant net.

“I don’t know where that move came from, maybe practice,” said Gazley. “I didn’t even really know I had that much time, but it worked out.”

Gazley’s linemate and junior forward Matt Schepke also scored a pair of goals for the Spartans, including MSU’s first goal of the young season on a rebound from the right post 8:35 into the contest.

“It feels really good to pop the first goal, especially in your home building. The fans get into the game quicker, and that gets you into quicker.”

It was Schepke’s second goal, just 1:42 into the middle frame that gave MSU a 4-0 lead and chased Dekanich in favor of Justin Kowalkoski. After maintaining puck possession around the Colgate goal line, Schepke slipped a bad angle shot through the starting netminder.

“We were getting the puck deep and cycling and getting it down to the goal line, and that’s when we’re at our best,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley. “We could have had a bunch in the first 30 minutes. We had a lot of chances.”

Colgate responded well to the change in net, outscoring the Spartans 3-2 for the remainder of the game, but the Raiders had dug too deep of a first period hole to have any legitimate hope of a comeback.

Dustin Gazley's pair of first-period goals set the tone for the evening.

Dustin Gazley’s pair of first-period goals set the tone for the evening.

“This Michigan State team is really good at taking the puck low, and they’re great from the dots down. They bring it hard to the net, and if you spend enough time in your own zone, they’re going to kill you,” said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan.

Lerg added, “Our great start came because we were intense forechecking. One guy took the body, the next took the puck, and that’s how we were generating chances in the first.”

The intensity manifested itself in more than just goals. MSU dominated time of possession and severely out chanced its opponent thanks to the strong forecheck.

Still, the Raiders battled back in the second half and starting playing for Saturday, which should shape up as a solid game.

“To improve for Saturday, we need to find a way to get the puck up, get it deep, and play in their zone more,” said Vaughan.

Colgate will look to take things more methodically to even up puck possession and the weekend series when both teams faceoff Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.

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