College Hockey:
Michigan State blanks Bowling Green

Spartans prevail in head coach’s final home game

— When Bowling Green and Michigan State took the ice on Saturday in the final game of the regular season, there was nothing at stake in terms of standings.  Both teams would finish just where they started the weekend, at the bottom of the CCHA standings or one step above it.

This was, however, MSU head coach Rick Comley’s final game behind the bench in Munn Ice Arena, and Comley’s players made sure that their coach left the building with a win and the Spartans’ only sweep of the season.  Dean Chelios and Derek Grant scored, while Drew Palmisano earned his fourth career shutout in the Spartans’ 2-0 blanking of the Falcons.

Chelios said that finally getting to sing the Spartans’ fight song in the locker room—something the team does only after a sweep—was “pretty exciting.”  The sophomore opened the scoring for MSU in last night’s contest as well.

“We’ve had a rough year, standings and luck-wise,” said Chelios.  “Everything seems to have been kind of an uphill battle this whole year.  To finish the year with our first sweep and put the seniors out and Coach like that and having the excitement of singing the song after—it was pretty special.”

Chelios’ goal came at 3:58 in the first. Brock Shelgren shot from the point and the puck was caught somewhere in BG goaltender Andrew Hammond’s equipment.  When Hammond backed toward the net to look for the puck, it dislodged and dropped to the ice, and Chelios knocked it in for the 1-0 lead.

The Spartans’ second goal came at 6:31 in the third, on a broken defensive play in front of the Bowling Green net.  When the puck came to Dustin Gazley, he dished across the crease from right to left to Grant, who scored on an essentially empty net with Hammond drawn right to defend.

“One-nothing game and you’re one shot away, and story of our season,” said BGSU head coach Chris Bergeron. “We turn the puck over two passes it’s in the net – one pass, great play by Gazley.”

Like last night’s contest, this one seemed fairly routine.  “I’m not sure how exciting the game was or anything, but our kids worked hard,” said Comley.  With a bench shorted by injury, Comley said that goals were “tough to come by,” but called the tone of the game “diligent, honest, hard-working.”

“Both games were tough for goalies because they didn’t have a consistency of shots,” said Comley, “but I thought (Palmisano) made a couple of real big saves and was alert at the end of the game, so that’s good.”

Bergeron said that while he knew that the Spartans would have more energy because of the send-off for Comley and seniors Dustin Gazley and Joey Shean, he thought the Falcons’ effort was a bit lackluster.

“We had a two-on-one, we don’t get a shot,” said Bergeron.  “We have a 3-on-2, we go offsides.  We had power-play opportunities, don’t get pucks through.  It’s our year in a nutshell.  Not enough purpose to what we did.”

Hammond played well in a losing effort, stopping 30-of-32 shots.  Palmisano had 17 saves on the night.

There was a very brief ceremony honoring Comley after the game, touching on highlights not just from his nine years at Michigan State but his entire collegiate coaching career, which has spanned 38 seasons.  It was more than enough for Comley.

“It was nice,” said Comley.  “I’m not a glamor and glitz kind of guy.  My preference would be to do nothing, but I appreciate what it was.  It was nice.”

The Falcons (8-24-4 overall, 3-21-4-2 in the CCHA) will head to Northern Michigan for the best-of-three, first round of the CCHA playoffs beginning next Friday, March 4, while the Spartans (15-17-4, 11-15-2-0) travel to Alaska to face the Nanooks.

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