SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Just 24 hours after a game that coach Tom Anastos was very unhappy with, the Michigan State Spartans got themselves back on track on Saturday night at the hands of the Lake Superior State Lakers.
The Spartans picked up their first conference win, beating the Lakers, 4-2, at Taffy Abel Arena in Central Collegiate Hockey Association action. The win gave the two schools a split of the first conference action for both teams.
The Spartans got on the board in the opening period when John Draeger scored his first collegiate goal. Tanner Sorenson gave the Spartans a two-goal lead in the second period, but the Lakers cut the lead to 2-1 when Chris Ciotti picked up his third goal of the season in the final moments of the period.
Matt Berry and Anthony Hayes scored third-period goals for Michigan State to put the Spartans ahead 4-1, and they held on for the win despite a goal by Stephen Perfetto for the Lakers late.
“It was a much better effort tonight; this was the kind of effort we thought we were capable of,” said Anastos. “We played a lot smarter. We played with more discipline in our game. I give the kids all the credit. They got themselves ready to play. We made no changes to our game plan. We made the one change in goal and Rhett (Holland) was out of the lineup. The guys deserve the credit because they got themselves ready. From the drop of the puck, you saw a harder-working, quicker, faster, and more cohesive team.”
Said Lakers coach Jim Roque, “Michigan State really came to play tonight. They were desperate for a win. They played a little better than us tonight. They won more battles than they did last night against us. We just didn’t seem to be on. Some guys didn’t play as well as they did last night.”
Jack Hildebrand got his first career CCHA start on Saturday for the Spartans and proceeded to stop 28 Lakers shots to pick up the win.
“He was really good,” Anastos said of the freshman goaltender. “He showed why he’s going to be a good player. He showed lots of quickness. He was very poised, especially in some scrums where there was a lot of pressure on him. I don’t feel that when he gave up goals, it shook him at all. He had a really good game.”
After losing the services of junior goaltender Kevin Kapalka to a shoulder injury in Friday night’s game, the Lakers look to junior goaltender Kevin Murdoch to carry the workload until Kapalka returns. In his first conference start, Murdoch stopped 33 shots on Saturday night.
“I wouldn’t say he played awesome, but I didn’t think he played bad,” said Roque. “Around him too, we’ve got to help him a little better. It’s tough to win when you only score two goals. We need some more production from some guys.”
The Lakers (3-3-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) are back in action next weekend when they travel to Alaska to take on the Nanooks. Meanwhile, Michigan State (2-3-1, 1-1-0 CCHA) has a home-and-home series with Bowling Green beginning at home on Friday night.