EAST LANSING, Mich. — After last night’s lopsided game, few would have predicted overtime for tonight’s contest between CCHA cellar dweller Lake Superior State and nationally-ranked Michigan State.
However, the Lakers fought hard, figuratively and literally, to tie the Spartans on the road. In a game marred by penalties and skirmishes, the Lakers held their ground to prevent the sweep and gain a point in the CCHA standings.
With the tie, No. 10 Michigan State’s record now stands at 13-5-3 overall and 9-2-1 in conference play. Lake Superior State moves to 0-9-3 in league contests and 2-12-4 on the season.
“Obviously, it was a lot better,” said Lakers coach John Roque. “You’ve got to give Michigan State some credit for last night; I thought they were real good. I knew our guys would bounce back today. It was just a great effort all around. I’m really happy with how we came back.”
Tied at 2-2 entering the final frame, the Lakers took a 3-2 lead early on freshman center Rick Schofield’s fifth goal of the season, just 1:12 into the period.
Michigan State came right back to score the tying goal at 4:16 when sophomore defenseman Mike Ratchuk netted the first Spartans’ power-play goal of the night; the Spartans were 0-for-5 on the night.
After the teams exchanged fruitless power plays in regulation, the Lakers dominated the overtime period, but were unable to score. A late fight hurt both teams’ chances to win the game.
“Give them credit; they’re a good team,” said Spartans’ goaltender Jeff Lerg. “They came out, took it to us and got back on the board. They’re going to beat some teams in the second half [of the season]. They’re getting some confidence here, and becoming the team that they want to be.”
The Spartans were disappointed with the tie, considering last night’s dominance and losses by top league teams Miami and Notre Dame.
“Well, it is certainly much better than last weekend,” Spartans’ coach Rick Comley said. “But those are not very big steps, though. There are just some things we have issues with. We give up so many shots; it just blows my mind how many quality shots that shouldn’t even get to the net. We know that we have a young defense, and that we have a ways to go, but I thought they struggled badly tonight, especially defending.”
In a complete turnaround from Friday night’s game, the Lakers scored first just 24 seconds into the first period when sophomore wing Nathan Perkovich slipped a puck past Lerg.
Roque also decided to switch starting goalies tonight, going with freshman Brian Mahoney-Wilson instead of sophomore Pat Inglis. The freshman made some key stops early, including one on a breakaway for Spartans’ junior wing Tim Kennedy to keep the Lakers in the lead.
“I thought Brian was very aggressive out there,” Roque said. “He got out of the net. I think that’s one thing I haven’t seen out of Pat Inglis lately. I thought we did a much better job of helping him tonight, too.”
Eventually, the Spartans worked the puck past Mahoney-Wilson, though, when Mahoney-Wilson came out of the net and got knocked off his feet. After a scramble for the puck, senior center Bryan Lerg found the back of the net to tie the game at one goal apiece.
Soon after, Michigan State scored again, when senior wing Chris Mueller deflected freshman defenseman Jeff Petry’s sizzling shot from the high left zone into the top corner of the net, giving the Spartans their first lead of the game, 2-1.
The second period was very physical. Despite multiple power play opportunities, neither team scored until 15:53 Lakers’ sophomore defenseman Steven Kaunisto put a “why not?” shot on net from the blue line and caught Lerg off-guard.
The Lakers dominated the second period, out-shooting the Spartans 15-6 while still playing a physical game that kept Michigan State frustrated for 20 minutes. Kaunisto’s unlikely goal tied the score, 2-2, and helped set up the overtime result.
“I thought both goaltenders played well; I don’t think one played better than the other,” Comley said. “They both had to make a lot of saves. Like their kid made a great save in overtime, and Jeff, with only a couple seconds to go, had to make a great save. Right now he is bailing out our defense for sure.”
Next up for No. 10 Michigan State is a home-and-home CCHA series with No. 6 Notre Dame, while Lake Superior State hosts CCHA foe Bowling Green for two games.