ORONO, Maine — Add another chapter to the historic University of Maine-Michigan State men’s hockey rivalry.
After failing to protect a pair of one-goal leads for a second straight game, the Black Bears drew three consecutive power plays in the waning minutes of Saturday’s weekend finale at Alfond Arena in Orono and used sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist’s heroics on the third of them with 1:39 remaining in regulation to break a 3-3 tie and win their first game of the season, 5-3.
Nyquist’s wrist shot from the right faceoff circle beat Spartans’ sophomore goalie Drew Palmisano glove side, as he was screened in front by Maine senior center David deKastrozza. It was Nyquist’s team leading fourth goal of the season.
“I saw a spot short side, and luckily I put it there,” Nyquist said of the game winner.
Maine improved to 1-3-0 while Michigan State lost their first game of the season to fall to 3-1-0. The Black Bears averted their first 0-and-4 start since the 1982-83 season, in which they lost 14 in a row after a pair of wins against Canada’s Dalhousie University, which were considered regular season games at the time but would now be exhibitions.
Senior left wing Kevin Swallow added a diving empty-net goal with 1:16 left to secure the win.
“It’s huge for us,” Nyquist said of the win. “A lot of momentum back, and I think the crowd enjoyed this win.”
Neither team gave an inch for all three periods, as expected between the postseason rivals from the Hockey East and CCHA conferences, who have met in the NCAA tournament six times. The last matchup before Friday came in the 2007 Frozen Four semifinal in St. Louis, which the Spartans won 4-2 on their way to upsetting Boston College to win the National Championship.
“I was proud of the guys, how we competed tonight,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “Last night, special teams cost us. Tonight it won the game for us.”
Michigan State responded to Maine leads of 2-1 and 3-2 Saturday night, but could not regain the lead after going up 1-0 midway through the first period.
Nyquist’s goal was Maine’s second on the power play of the night. They also had two in Friday’s game. Michigan State capitalized on one of their six chances Saturday with the man advantage.
“I thought we played like a young team tonight,” Michigan State coach Rick Comley said. “We fought, got back in it, and continued to take some avoidable penalties. That’s going to hurt you on the road, especially.”
The Black Bears went into the second intermission leading 3-2, to the delight of a raucous crowd of 4835, but Michigan State junior left wing Andrew Rowe silenced the building with the equalizer 45 seconds into the third period. His offering from the left corner deflected off Maine sophomore goalie Scott Darling into the goal.
Maine killed a Will O’Neill elbowing penalty midway through the third period before their trio of power plays in the final 10 minutes.
Michigan State junior right wing Corey Tropp, who had a hat trick Friday, lit the lamp for the fourth time on the weekend 9:23 into the opening period during the Spartans’ first power play. Tropp got Darling to over-commit to the far post on a circle-to-circle pass to freshman Derek Grant. Grant’s return pass deflected off senior center Nick Sucharski’s skate to Tropp waiting in front of an open net to flick it in.
Maine answered short-handed with 3:39 remaining in the opening period when deKastrozza flung in a wrist shot from the left point. It was deKastrozza’s second goal of the weekend and of his career at Maine. As the only Maine player to see ice time in the Frozen Four, he said a point in this series meant more than others he may contribute this year.
“I finally got the monkey off my back, or in my case the gorilla,” deKastrozza joked. “It was definitely great to get a couple of goals against these guys, more than anything else.”
The Black Bears came out of the first intermission determined to take the lead. Freshman center Matt Mangene forced a turnover in the Michigan State zone, and classmate Adam Shemansky picked up the loose puck and found sophomore right wing Spencer Abbott in the slot, who wristed a shot past Palmisano top shelf 1:40 into the frame.
Michigan State answered 4:04 into the period when junior defenseman Jeff Petry connected with sophomore left wing Mike Merrifield at the far post from the right faceoff circle. Tropp had the second assist on Merrifield’s first career goal.
Maine took their second lead on a power play with 4:57 remaining in the second period. Mangene found sophomore left wing Brian Flynn in front from the left circle, who converted the shot in traffic.
Maine’s two second period goals came from just five shots on goal. Michigan State had 12 in the period, and led the game’s shot total 27-25. Darling stopped 24 shots to earn his first win of the season (1-1-0). Palmisano stopped 20 shots in the loss (2-1-0).