GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Just like Friday night, Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos found his team down 2-1 heading into the second intermission.
Anastos kept his message simple to his players.
“After the second period, we go in again down 2-1. I told them, ‘Winning’s fun, but a comeback win’s even more fun.’”
Michigan State capped off their Icebreaker tournament weekend with just that, a comeback 3-2 overtime victory over Air Force Academy in the Icebreaker third place game Saturday afternoon at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Casey Kleisinger’s second goal of the tournament came just twenty-seven seconds into the game for Air Force.
However, Michigan State did not panic, averting disaster and keeping it a one-goal deficit.
“We competed hard the whole time,” Anastos said. “I thought that we tried to play as up-tempo as possible.”
Midway through the second period, Michigan State’s Greg Wolfe provided the equalizer they needed at 8:33.
Air Force made the Spartans play one more game of catch-up, though, as Scott Mathis’ point shot at 18:12 beat sophomore goaltender Will Yanakeff (26 saves) and gave the Falcons a crucial second intermission lead.
But Anastos’ Spartans wouldn’t be fooled again. They came out of the third period gate with the same mission they had going in, keeping their offense going at a high level.
“We went out there and continued to do what we tried to do the entire game,” Anastos said. “Every puck was contested out there on both sides.”
Finally, Michigan State broke through, using a key third period power play to tilt the ice in their direction. Breaking through was sophomore Lee Reimer, who had just two goals and five assists in his 2010-11 campaign. Reimer evened it up with a power-play goal 5:21 into the third.
Despite a barrage of shots — Air Force outshot Michigan State 13-3 in the third — the score remained tied throughout the balance of regulation.
It didn’t take long, though. Just as Air Force started the first period with a burst, Michigan State ended it in the extra frame the same way, thanks to Reimer. Reimer ended it with a quick one-timer from the right circle 54 seconds in.
Anastos said Reimer was targeted as one of those players that needed to emerge as a go-to playmaker. One night after getting the early shower thanks to a checking-from-behind misconduct call, Reimer was the hero, providing hope for a team in need of offense.
“We hoped he would emerge as a player and build confidence,” Anastos said. “I didn’t get a good look at him last night because he took that penalty and was done for the game. But tonight, he got a lot of ice time, and I thought that line played really well.”
Air Force’s Jason Torf played most of the minutes Saturday night, finishing with 20 saves. Freshman Paul Moberg, listed on the lineup sheet as the third goalie, finished the final 5:17. His only shot faced was Reimer’s game winner.
Michigan State heads home to start their conference schedule with a big win, but also with a number of lessons learned from an exciting weekend with some of the best teams in the nation at the Icebreaker tournament.
“Lots of guys got experience this weekend,” said Anastos. “We played two goalies. We learned a lot of little things, but more importantly the guys can see how hard they have to compete to play this style of hockey.”