EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State’s biggest problem this year has been the lack of scoring punch, and in an overtime shootout on their home ice, this affliction once again cost them a chance to win.
As a result, the Ferris State Bulldogs fought back from a two goal deficit on the road to force overtime and win the CCHA matchup in the overtime shootout, 2-1.
Spartans senior wing Matt Schepke scored in the second round of the shootout with a rocket wrister, but Michigan State was unable to beat Bulldogs’ sophomore goaltender Pat Nagle again in the tiebreaker.
It wasn’t until Ferris State freshman Derek Graham scored in the fifth round off MSU senior captain and All-American Jeff Lerg, five-hole, that Ferris State could celebrate the win, however.
With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 12-11-6 on the season, including an 8-8-5-2 mark in conference play. Meanwhile, the Spartans’ sad season continues, as they drop to 7-19-3 overall and 4-14-3-2 in the league standings.
“We kept chipping away,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “Really, it was a pretty even game. I give Pat Nagle a lot of credit.”
Nagle finished with 30 saves through overtime, and he made two key saves in the shootout as well to keep his team alive, much to the chagrin of the slumping Spartans.
“We got a point,” said Michigan State coach Rick Comley. “Shootouts are going to be anybody’s guess. The kids gave what they had, obviously.”
Yet for the second game in a row, the Spartans could not hold an early 2-0 lead, as Ferris State eventually netted the game-tying goal with 7:29 left in the third period, as junior wing Cody Chupp deflected the puck past Michigan State senior goaltender Jeff Lerg. Sophomore wing Justin Menke launched the shot for the Bulldogs and earned an assist, setting up the overtime period.
“Michigan State did a good job defensively in taking away a lot of our time and space,” Daniels said. “I give the credit to our goaltender. Michigan State had a lot of opportunities, and he held us in there long enough to get a couple of goals.”
Michigan State built its early lead in the first period with a power-play goal by sophomore wing Andrew Rowe. Freshman center Dalton Leveille’s slapshot busted through Bulldogs sophomore goaltender Pat Nagle and trickled ever so slowly toward the line. Sophomore wing Andrew Rowe helped the puck fully cross the line to get the score. Freshman defenseman Matt Crandell also registered an assist on the play.
“Michigan State did a good job of breaking the puck out,” Daniels said. “I just don’t think we had a lot of structure with our forecheck tonight.”
The goal was enough to hold up throughout the rest of the first period, as both teams struggled to get quality scoring chances. Both goalies made some key saves, but overall, the first 20 minutes was a quiet affair after Rowe’s goal.
Quite often this season, Michigan State has been burned by poor play immediately after scoring, resulting in a lot of goals given up right after their own scores. But that was not the case tonight.
“The first period was a very sluggish period,” Daniels said. “We just couldn’t get our legs underneath us.”
The second period gave Ferris State an early chance to tie the score with a power-play opportunity, but the closest the Bulldogs came was a sizzler off the top crossbar. And when Michigan State scored a few minutes later, Ferris State lost a lot of energy.
Spartans sophomore center Joey Shean scored his first career goal on a deflection 4:21 into the period. Freshman defenseman Brock Shelgren shot the puck awkwardly from the boards, and Shean was able to angle it past Nagle for the 2-0 lead, despite having a Ferris State defender all over him.
“I thought there were a lot of good plays,” Comley said. “You take the good, and you just to grow the next game.”
Not giving up, the Bulldogs were able to get on the scoreboard with 9:39 left in the second period on a pretty passing sequence between wings Chupp and Menke. Coming straight down middle ice, Menke took the Chupp’s feed pass from just beyond the net and beat Lerg clean for the goal.
The second period ended with a flurry of activity at both ends, highlighted by a great poke check from Lerg. After some bungled passing in the Spartans’ zone, Graham found himself alone with the puck right in front of the net. Before he could get off a shot, however, Lerg poked the puck away with his stick, and the score remained 2-1 in favor of the Spartans.
Lerg finished overtime with 44 saves, for his 11th consecutive game with 29 or more stops.
“He’s doing everything he possibly can,” Comley said. “He makes so many good saves, and he has to right now.”
The two teams face each other again on Saturday night in Big Rapids, MI. The puck drops at 7:05 ET.