EAST LANSING, Mich. — Spencer Abbott’s two power-play goals 10 seconds apart for the Black Bears tied this game in the third period, but Dustin Gazley answered on the fly with 5:07 left in the game, lifting the Spartans over Maine, 3-2, for Michigan State’s first win of the season.
“You look at their lineup and it’s a junior [and] senior dominated team, top scoring player in the country, best line in the country, a very dangerous team,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley. “I leave this weekend saying, ‘You know what? We can play with really good teams.’”
Maine head coach Tim Whitehead called the tie and loss in East Lansing this weekend a wake-up call. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming out here. We had that resounding victory over Lowell and I think we got a little comfortable. We thought it was going to come easy when the fact is it won’t.”
The Spartans led 2-0 going into the third on goals by Brock Shelgren and Brett Perlini. Shelgren took Trevor Nill’s pass out from the corner and one-timed the puck past Dan Sullivan at 9:22 in the first. Perlini scored in similar fashion at 1:58 of the second after receiving Lee Reimer’s pretty backhanded centering pass from behind the goal.
The two-goal lead came in spite of a significant number of MSU penalties, and it was a two-man advantage that finally helped Maine spell Drew Palmisano in the third. With Shelgren in the box for an interference call at 9:30, Mike Merrifield was called for tripping at 10:33. Abbott scored his first goal from the left point on a pass from Josh Van Dyk with 21 seconds left in the five-on-three. Ten seconds later, Abbott found the near side from the bottom of the right circle to tie the game.
“On the bench it was like a morgue,” said Comley, “because this team for sure is going to take a while to find out who they turn to.”
The mystery of the go-to guy was short-lived tonight, however. Shelgren skated the puck into the Maine zone and dished to Gazley, who fired the game-winner from the left circle.
“He had no choice but to shoot the puck,” said Comley. “Thank God it wasn’t a two-on-one, because he would’ve passed it.”
“Sloppiness, penalties obviously cost us tonight,” said Whitehead. “We came back. We got the two goals on the power play. They took some penalties I’m sure they’d like to have back, but they didn’t panic. They weathered the storm.
“We had a great third period but you can’t win a game playing one period against a real good team in their own rink. The penalties we took cost us. It was too little, too late.”
The Black Bears outshot the Spartans 30-21 and had the advantage in power-play opportunities, with 10 to MSU’s six. The only penalties assessed in the third were at MSU’s expense – four, resulting in Maine’s two goals.
“I think we played very well until that penalty run,” said Comley, who added that it was “really encouraging” to see Palmisano “step up and play to that magnitude” during the consecutive penalty kills.
Next up for Maine (1-1-2) are two nonconference games against North Dakota next weekend, Oct. 22-23. The Spartans (1-0-1) will begin CCHA play next weekend at home against Alaska.