EAST LANSING, Mich. — For a team that has averaged just over two goals per game in its last 11 outings, a hat trick and a power-play goal by stay-at-home defenseman were welcome gifts.
Corey Tropp scored three in a row from the end of the second through the middle of the third to propel the Michigan State Spartans ahead of the Bowling Green Falcons, 4-1, capping a two-game weekend sweep.
Tropp’s first goal of the night came at 19:17 in the second period and was the second of two last-minute goals delivered by the Spartans; Jeff Petry found the net on the power play at 19:16 in the first to open the scoring in the contest.
“I’ve just been fortunate,” said Tropp. “I think anyone in our locker room is capable of getting that late goal. I’ve been on a lucky string and hopefully that can carry over in the second half.”
The Spartans had two power-play goals and Bowling Green’s only marker came with the man advantage as the play became edgy at times, including two face-washing penalties called at 5:35 in the second, one that earned BG’s Max Grover two minutes and MSU’s Matt Grassi five. The Spartans were two-for-six on the power play, the Falcons one-for-four, as the teams combined for 34 penalty minutes.
“Special teams are something that we don’t want to get into,” said Falcons’ coach Dennis Williams. “We’re successful when we’re five-on-five, when we’re moving our feet and finishing our checks. We got out there and some of those penalties were definitely unacceptable from my standpoint.”
Petry’s second of the season — his first since a 5-3 loss to Maine Oct. 17 — was a blast from the left point at 19:16 in the first to give MSU a 1-0 lead. The goal also brought a rain of plush toys from the stands; a teddy-bear toss was scheduled for the first intermission.
“I had no idea what was going on,” said Tropp, who said he’d forgotten about the charity event. “I obviously didn’t score three…and then I saw the teddy bears.
“It was just a relief for me to be able to get a shot through.”
Tomas Petruska tied the game for Bowling Green at 16:02 in the second after pouncing on a loose puck in the crease and poking it in between MSU goaltender Drew Palmisano’s glove and the right post, but Tropp’s first goal at 19:17 put the Spartans ahead by one again. With 43.2 seconds left in the stanza, Tropp picked up a rebound from Petry and beat BG’s Andrew Hammond, who couldn’t recover from the initial shot to stop the puck twice.
Both of Tropp’s third-period goals were a bit fluky. At 3:37, Tropp took a centering pass from Andrew Rowe, who had fished the puck out from the right corner. Tropp’s blade made contact with the puck and directed it toward the net, but the shot was weak and the puck bounced right through Hammond’s leg pads.
“I was just as surprised as their goaltender,” said Tropp. “It hit a shin pad and it took a weird bounce, but we’ve been struggling to score lately, so we’ll take them any we can get them.”
Then at 13:22, Tropp took a pass from Dean Chelios near the right post and put the puck in behind Hammond, who was out too far in the crease after stopping Petry’s initial shot.
“In the last couple of games, struggling to score goals, we knew it was just a matter of time that the games would come…it just seems that goals come in spurts,” said Petry. “We knew they were going to come if we just kept working hard.”
“If you have the right guys out there,” said MSU coach Rick Comley, “ultimately you’ll work through it.”
Hammond gave a solid performance in the loss, stopping 32 shots. Palmisano had 15 saves, as the Spartans outshot the Falcons 36-16.
This game ended the first half of the regular season for both teams. Bowling Green (2-14-2, 2- 10-2-2 CCHA) next faces Minnesota in the Dodge Holiday Classic Jan. 2 in Minneapolis, while Michigan State (12-6-2, 9-3-2-0 CCHA) will take on Michigan Tech in the first game of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament Dec. 29 in Detroit.