EAST LANSING, Mich. — It had been almost a month since Michigan State’s last win, but even though they had played only two games in that time, the Spartans certainly wanted to get back on track quickly after the last-place showing in the Great Lakes Invitational last weekend.
It took the defending NCAA champions one period to serve notice that the second half of the season will be stronger than the first, as they scored four goals to set the tone and cruise to the win over the last-place CCHA team.
With the 8-2 victory, No. 10 Michigan State improves to 13-5-2 overall, including 9-2-0 in CCHA contests. Lake Superior State falls to 0-9-2 in league play and 2-12-3 overall.
“There were good parts to the game, but there are segments that we need to get better at,” said Michigan State Coach Rick Comley. “I think when you score a lot, it hides the true quality of play. Overall we played well. I think we can play an awful lot better, and I think we’ll have to..”
Several Spartans dominated the score sheet tonight, with junior wing Matt Schepke leading the way with four points on one goal and three assists. Junior wing Tim Crowder added three points, while sophomore defenseman Mike Ratchuk also notched three points.
The eight goals set a season high for Michigan State, which had scored six goals in four other games this season, and it was the most the Spartans have scored since an 8-0 win over Lake Superior State on Jan. 21, 2005.
“We had to bounce back from the GLI weekend,” said Ratchuk. “I think we all came out flying, and everyone contributed.”
For Lake Superior State, it was another tough game in a season that is becoming more and more painful in the CCHA standings: the Lakers still don’t have a conference win yet.
“Obviously when you get beaten 8-2, you don’t play very well,” Lake Superior State Coach Jim Roque said. “There were a couple of times in the first period we couldn’t get it out of the zone, and they took advantage of it. I thought we looked like we hadn’t played in a month.”
The first period certainly didn’t disappoint the crowd at Munn Arena, as Michigan State lit the lamp early and often. Junior wing Tim Crowder put in an easy shot from the short left flat on a rebound to put the Spartans up by a goal, just 1:09 into the game. Junior wing Matt Schepke and sophomore defenseman Mike Ratchuk assisted on the goal.
However, the Lakers tied it up a few minutes later on sophomore wing Zac MacVoy’s surprising short-handed goal, when several Spartans misplayed the puck deep in their own zone. Just like that, Michigan State’s hot start evaporated.
But the Spartans fought back on the same power play to take a 2-1 lead on Schepke’s eighth goal of the season, as Crowder and junior center Nick Sucharski assisted. Michigan State added another goal with 7:15 left in the period, when senior center Bryan Lerg deflected senior defenseman Daniel Vukovich’s power play slap shot into the net.
“It was a very fun game to play,” Schepke said. “It was a must-win for us after what happened [at the GLI]. But it was nice to see the team came together as a whole and really play well together.”
Finally, the Spartans added a fourth first-period score when Ratchuk scored on a spirited rush to the net with 2:51 left in the period, with Sucharski assisting this time.
“I don’t care about the eight goals,” added Comley. “I just want quality of play. We’re not going to score eight very often; that’s not what we’re all about.”
Ratchuk and junior center Justin Abdelkader added second-period goals for the Spartans, while senior defenseman Justin Gutwald added a late goal for Lake Superior State. At the end of two periods, it was 6-2, Michigan State, and the Spartans were three-for-three on the power play.
In the third period, Crowder added another goal, while freshman wing Corey Tropp netted the Spartans’ eighth goal of the game late in the period. Michigan State junior goalie Jeff Lerg finished with 29 saves before leaving the ice with 7:21 left in the game.
“Obviously they didn’t play too well last weekend so they were pretty focused tonight,” Roque said. “They knew what they had to do, and I thought they played well. I think they were going on all cylinders, and they didn’t give us a break anywhere on the ice.”
The two teams play again tomorrow night in East Lansing at 5:05 pm ET.