COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Michigan State Spartans have fully inserted themselves into the CCHA logjam by finishing a sweep of the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes with a 3-2 victory Saturday evening.
Michigan State is one of eight teams in the CCHA within six points of first place with six games to play. First year Michigan State coach Tom Anastos led the CCHA as its commissioner up until this past summer for 13 years. As commissioner, Anastos instituted a playoff system in which, in a season like this, a few points could make a huge difference in matchups.
“I am not a huge fan of parity unless the parity is at a high competitive level,” Anastos said. “By looking at our teams throughout the CCHA, and our nonconference record, looking at where the teams fall in the PairWise, we have parity in our league, but our teams are very deep and competing on a national level.”
The Spartans were led by defenseman Torey Krug, who had his second straight multi-point game with a goal and assist. Krug had a total of five points for the weekend.
“He comes to play every night,” Anastos said. “He doesn’t take a shift off. There are times he makes mistakes, but because he works and competes so hard, I think he is an incredible competitor. Because of that, he is very dependable.”
Krug helped put the Spartans on the board 9:14 into the first to give MSU the opening 1-0 lead. Krug faked a shot from the left circle and then passed off to Matt Berry, who redirected his shot past the glove of OSU goalie Cal Heeter.
“I think he is an all-league type player,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “You have to have a defenseman that can run and
quarterback. Certainly it settles things out five-on-five, but from a power-play standpoint, he is top shelf.”
After Jake Chelios gave Michigan State a 2-0 lead 1:57 into the second, Krug gave the Spartans the eventual game-winner 13:25 into the middle frame. After taking a cross ice pass, Krug buried a slap shot past Heeter to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead.
Krug’s five-point weekend gives him 24 points for the season, tops in the CCHA for defenders.
“I was fortunate this weekend; I got a lot of lucky bounces,” Krug said. “My teammates played great and made good plays to me and I was able to put the puck in the back of the net.”
Ohio State mounted a furious rally following Krug’s goal.
One minute and two seconds after Krug’s goal, Ohio State’s Tanner Fritz scored his first of two goals, converting on a rebound left from a Max McCormick shot that bounced off Spartans goalie Will Yanakeff.
With 2:11 remaining in the second, Fritz finished a two-on-one chance after taking a pass from Ryan Dzingel and burying the puck past Yanakeff’s glove. Ohio State had all the momentum going into the second intermission.
“We felt that momentum,” Osiecki said. “The guys felt good. I thought we played pretty desperate hockey and just couldn’t find a way.”
The Buckeyes spent the entire third period unsuccessfully looking for the equalizer. Ohio State had three failed power plays for the third period, and outshot Michigan State 12-4.
Special teams played a huge difference in Saturday’s contest. Michigan State converted on two out of its six power-play opportunities. Ohio State went 0-for-8 for the game and 0-for-14 for the weekend series on the man advantage.
“We have to find the right guy on the blue line,” Osiecki said. “There is an example why. [Krug] does a hell of a job running their power play and we have to find somebody who can step up and do that.”
“[The penalty kill] was big for us,” Krug said. “Last weekend, we got beat a couple times down in Ferris and once again, our goal is to be a top penalty killing unit in the country, and hopefully we took another step forward on that this weekend. I thought a lot of guys blocked shots.”
Ohio State is still seeking its first win in 2012, as the Buckeyes are 0-6-4 since the start of the new year.
Osiecki said after the game that Ohio State’s second leading scorer, Danny Dries, was suspended for a violation of team rules following a meeting with the coaching staff and Ohio State administrators. Osiecki said the suspension is indefinite and did not know when or if Dries would return for the season.
Dries transferred to Ohio State after being booted from New Hampshire in 2009 two days before the NCAA Tournament. Dries missed both contests this weekend against MSU.