EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Spartans put 52 shots on net but Northern Michigan goaltender Jared Coreau was up to the task for 50 of them, as the Wildcats beat Michigan State, 4-2, snapping a four-game losing streak in the process.
“We came out the first period and definitely played like a fragile, lot of mistakes,” said NMU head coach Walt Kyle. “When you’re a team in that state, you need something to be a rock and Coreau was…something we can cling to and get our stuff together around. He’s had a number of performances like that.”
Four different Wildcats scored for Northern Michigan (12-15-4 overall, 10-11-2-2 in the CCHA). Torey Krug scored Michigan State’s two goals.
After the game, both coaches agreed that the Spartans (12-15-4, 8-13-2-0) dominated in every aspect but goal.
“The whole game, I thought the kids worked really hard,” said MSU head coach Rick Comley. “We controlled play, obviously. When you get that many shots and chances—sometimes you get a lot of shots and not many good chances [and] we had both.”
“As the game went on,” said Kyle, “I thought we were better in the second. I still thought State was probably in a little bit of control, but I thought we were better in the third. We were opportunistic.”
After a scoreless first period, Tyler Gron opened the scoring to give NMU the 1-0 lead on the power play at 17:14 in the second. Just as a 5-on-3 power play expired, the puck came back to Gron between the circles from some confusion in front of the net, and the Wildcats’ leading scorer shot it back past MSU goaltender Will Yanakeff for his 13th goal of the season.
With 27 seconds left in the second, Krug answered with his first goal of the night on the MSU man-advantage, tucking in the puck from close in with a lot of bodies fighting for possession in the crease. It was 1-1 after two.
At 6:37 in the third, Justin Florek put the Wildcats ahead again with a shot from the left circle that beat Yanakeff over the glove side, nicking the underside of the crossbar near the far corner and dropping in. Then at 9:44, Nicholas Kosinski made it 3-1 for NMU when he forced in Mike Maltese’s initial effort from near the crease.
The rest of the scoring came within the last two minutes of the third. Krug scored from between the top of the circles with the extra attacker at 18:35 to pull the Spartans to within one, but Phil Fox netted his eighth of the season when he hit the empty net to make it 4-2 at 19:27.
“We need a feel-good,” said Kyle, “something that gets us going—and we got some of the right guys to score. Phil Fox is a guy we needed to score. Those are big goals for us.”
“You can tell they’re a defensive team,” said Comley, “and they rely on good goaltending and hang around and they hang around and they try to get the lead. To play as well as we did and didn’t get the lead, that’s tough. We fought back and made it 3-2. When you pull your goalie enough, you’re going to get burnt, but we had no choice but to do it.”
Kyle said that when the teams face off Saturday, the Wildcats have to do more than rely on Coreau to keep them in it. “We have to be better at the start, for sure. We can’t expect to get two and being outplayed for half the game. We’re going to have to be better.”
The puck drops at 5:05 p.m. Saturday in Munn Ice Arena.