EAST LANSING, Mich. — Frankly, there is no way to do this game justice. You just had to be there.
“It was crazy, wasn’t it?” asked Michigan State Spartans’ coach Rick Comley.
Yes, it was.
“Everything possible happened,” said Comley, “thats for sure.”
For sure. Everything except for a penalty shot, some three-on-three hockey and a streaker at center ice for good measure, but the game was absolutely worth the price of admission.
Sure, Domenic Monardo’s fifth-round shootout goal proved to be the ultimate difference in this contest, giving Lake Superior State the extra point following a 3-3 tie with Michigan State, and did so after Laker Chad Nehring’s fourth-round shot was disallowed because it went into the net under Drew Palmisano’s left foot moments after said foot dislodged the net in the attempted save.
There was, however, so much more to it than that — most of it in the third period.
“I thought our guys bounced back — killed a penalty in overtime, a disallowed goal in the shootout, and still to come through,” said LSSU coach Jim Roque. “So our guys battled hard. I don’t think we had our best stuff this weekend.”
Well, the best stuff is in the eye of the beholder.
There was Dan Barzcuk’s goal at 2:36 in the third to give the Lakers a 2-1 lead, a goal that MSU goaltender Drew Palmisano himself attempted to wave off immediately after the play. Palmisano, however, was overruled by the officials; the goal stood, credited to Barzcuk, who scored face-down and prone to the ice, with his right skate touching Palmisano as the goaltender slid out of the crease and his left skate in contact with the puck before it crossed the line.
Barzcuk also contributed a game disqualification to the third-period entertainment at 6:04, hitting Andrew Tropp from behind after the Spartan demonstrated particularly good puck control on the MSU penalty kill.
Why were the Spartans on the PK? Because Nick Sucharski earned his own game disqualification for spearing at 3:18.
At 10:10 in the third, the Lakers’ leading scorer, Rick Schofield, scored his only goal of the weekend, short-handed, to put the Lakers ahead by one again — moments after Comley used his timeout to calm his squad.
“It was just bizarre,” said Comley. “I call a timeout with ten minutes to go in the game, and they score a short-handed goal with a forward back, both defenseman caught up ice. It was just a bizarre period with a lot of crazy things happening.”
To cap off the strangeness of the third period, Torey Krug, a freshman stay-at-home defenseman with one goal to his credit this season, scored the goal that sent the game into overtime with less than three minutes to go, a rocket from the left circle that saw nothing but net.
On the score sheet, the game reads much more conventionally. Dustin Gazley opened the scoring with less than a minute left in the first, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead going into the second. Mahoney-Wilson, who was so very good in this series, was spread-eagled on his back and completely out of the crease when Gazley scored, unable to recover in time after a couple of Spartans’ shots and little help from his own defense.
The Lakers made it 1-1 after two on defenseman Steve Kaunisto’s second goal of the season. On a four-on-two rush into the MSU net, Kaunisto lagged behind for a drop pass from Schofield. Kaunisto’s shot from above the left circle beat Palmisano clean and long.
Barczuk’s goal at 2:36 gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead, and Andrew Rowe answered for the Spartans at 9:23 on a power play, taking Derek Grant’s pass low in the right circle, spinning and shooting it past Mahoney-Wilson short.
At 10:10, Schofield made it 3-2. At 17:02, Krug made it 3-3.
In the first round of the shootout, Dean Chelios gave the Spartans the advantage. In the third round, Zac MacVoy beat Palmisano high to tie the shootout. In the fifth round, Monardo, shooting second, gave the Lakers that extra point.
Comley said that the Spartans “had more, better scoring opportunities” in the third period. “We had the first four or five minutes, then they took over the next fifteen minutes and I thought we played pretty darn well from then on.”
Overall, Comley said his team “battled and scrapped back to get in the game” and that “there were stretches in the game where both teams carried play.
“Obviously they are a good team, and an older, stronger team. But our kids, they worked really hard.”
Roque said that he didn’t think that his team “played Lake State hockey all weekend.” He said that the Lakers, who had the top power play in the CCHA coming into the weekend, needed to perform better on special teams.
“If we score a power-play goal each night,” said Roque, “we probably get three of four points — or five of six, whatever it is.”
In addition to having been provided with a third-period and overtime circus, the fans were treated to excellent goaltending this weekend. Mahoney-Wilson had 30 saves in this game for a total of 58 on the weekend. Palmisano stopped 32 tonight and 63 in the two-game set. The Lakers were 0-for-4 tonight on the power play, the Spartans one-for-six.
Next weekend, Lake Superior State (12-8-4, 7-7-2 CCHA) takes its show back to Sault Ste. Marie for a two-game series against Nebraska-Omaha. For the Spartans (15-6-3, 10-3-3 CCHA), it’s home-and-home against Notre Dame, with Friday’s game in South Bend.