MARQUETTE, Mich. — The sixth ranked Michigan State Spartans swept the Northern Michigan Wildcats when they met in October. The Wildcats have since struggled this season, but after tying both games with Michigan last weekend, they had a new confidence that helped them beat the Spartans, 3-1.
We knew what our competition is and theyre pretty big rivals, Wildcat goal Brian Stewart said. We were all ready before the game and it was nice to see. But you could tell from the start of the game we were out to win.
At 1:55 the Wildcats graced the scoreboard with a goal from Nick Sirota, who carried the puck across the crease and tucked it in left of Spartan goaltender Jeff Lerg.
During the first period, the Wildcats took two penalties for four minute and 22 seconds and didnt allow a single shot on goal. The Spartans tallied three for the whole period while Northern Michigan chalked up nine.
It was our best first period of the year, Stewart said. There werent many mistakes and they only got three shots on goal throughout the period.
They blocked a lot of shots, Spartan coach Rick Comley said. We had to take chances and work to get the shots through. We played lazy. We hit a lot of goal posts.
At 12:23 in the second period the Wildcats got their second goal of the night, despite being short handed, as Mark Olver passed the puck between two Michigan State players who were splayed across the ice, across the crease where Sirota put it in with a fast wrist shot.
I came across the middle and saw Mark coming up behind me so I gave him the puck, Sirota said. It was a great play by him for getting it back to me. I didnt even try to aim it at the net, their goalie was in an odd position so the puck made it.
At 16:21 the Wildcats took a 3-0 lead after shoving the puck under Lergs right leg pad. The goal, once again from Sirota, went under review and was received with a deafening applause.
The big factor in tonights game was the crowd, Wildcat coach Walt Kyle said. Except for when we played Michigan Tech before Christmas, we havent had that kind of energy. Tonight the crowd had the energy and the emotion and our guys could feel it.
Olver got his second assist of the night.
Olver was the unsung hero of tonights game, Kyle said. You certainly noticed Stewarts performance and Nicks performance with those marvelous goals, but Mark set up a lot of great plays.
The Wildcats ended the second period leading 3-0 and outshooting the Spartans 18-12.
The third period began with a roster change: States Bobby Jarosz was put in goal in place of Lerg.
It wasnt Jeffs fault, Comley said. We were just being outplayed and I hoped that would make them play harder. We just needed to change something.
The Spartans refused to give Stewart the shutout and at 17:42 they made a sloppy goal from Jeff Dunne, Daniel Vukovic and Brian Lerg to end the game with a final score of 3-1, going to the Wildcats.
Its a big win, Wildcat coach Walt Kyle said. Weve been playing better. Were slowly growing and turning into a competitive hockey team. To get this win was huge.
Everyone had heart, our defensemen played so well against some of the best players in the nation and we had moments with key positions, Sirota said. Our fans deserved a win.
The Wildcats will go for a sweep tomorrow night at the Berry Events Center. The puck drops at 7:35.