Jan. 13, 2007
East Lansing, Mich. - Despite a fantastic 44-save effort by Alaska netminder Wylie Rogers, Michigan State got a goal and two assists from Tyler Howells and two-point nights from three players to post a 4-3 victory over the Nanooks and record the two-game series sweep. A two-goal third period for MSU was the difference. The Spartans have now won six of their last seven contests to improve to 14-8-1 and 10-6-1 in the CCHA; Alaska falls to 7-11-3, 5-7-3 in conference games.
Michigan State came from behind for the third straight game to post a victory, trailing 2-1 until late in the second period before rallying for three straight goals to capture the win. Jeff Lerg made 25 saves in the Spartan net.
"We played really well. We had control from start to finish - we just couldn't score," noted head coach Rick Comley. "I thought Rogers came up big for them. He was really good. He controlled play, he got whistles, he made big saves. He had no chance really on any of the goals, so he played really well."
Each team scored once in the first two periods before Michigan State staked a 4-2 lead in the final frame. Alaska got a late goal to make it a one-goal affair, but the Spartans held on to post their second CCHA sweep of the season.
The teams traded goals in the opening six minutes of the first period. The Spartans scored first on a hard-work effort by Tim Crowder, redirecting a rebound in the slot from his knees. It was Crowder's fifth goal in six games, and assists were credited to Chris Snavely and Justin Abdelkader; Tim Kennedy was whistled for slashing immediately after the play, putting the visitors on the power play.
The Nanooks took advantage, with an extra-man tally at 5:54 to knot the score at one. It was winger Aaron Lee who found a way to solve Jeff Lerg, posting his fourth goal.
Rogers was outstanding for the visitors, withstanding an 18-shot barrage in the first period and allowing just one goal, keeping his team in the game.
It allowed Alaska to take a 2-1 lead at the 6:14 mark of the second period, immediately after Rogers stoned Spartan Tyler Howells on a breakaway. The visitors stormed into the zone and threw the puck deep, and captain Lucas Barnett chased it down below the goal line to the right of Jeff Lerg. Barnett passed it into the slot onto the stick of Jordan Emmerson, who lifted it over the right shoulder of the Spartan netminder.
The Spartans continued to dominate play in the second period, coming in waves both even strength and on the power play. They finally broke through with an equalizing tally at the 18:45 mark, as Howells took a feed from Jim McKenzie and worked the puck below the goal line. He moved behind the cage and looked for white jerseys, and found Nick Sucharski sitting on the top of the crease. Sucharski lifted the puck and snuck it by Rogers beneath his catching glove, depositing his sixth goal of the season.
A contact to the head elbowing infraction whistled against Nathan Fornataro at 5:02 of the final frame had the Spartans on their fifth power play of the night, but the Nanooks had three good scoring chances skating shorthanded early in their penalty kill. Assistant captain Kyle Greentree had three point-blank chances on Jeff Lerg, but the netminder had remained sharp despite relatively little action in his own end throughout the game and made each stop.
The big stops gave the home team some momentum and the Spartans pushed the puck deep into the offensive zone, and cycled it low. Sucharski was below the goal line to the left of the goaltender, and set up Jim McKenzie on the doorstep. Rogers was square to the shooter, but McKenzie found the sliver of space five-hole to put the Spartans ahead for the first time in the contest, 3-2.
Michigan State increased its lead to 4-2 on a pretty goal from Howells at 13:19. Dan Sturges had the puck at the half-wall and pushed it into the high slot for the crashing winger, who flipped it past Rogers stick-side for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
Alaska cut the lead in half with just over a minute and a half remaining in the game, but that would be as close as the visitors would come as they were forced to swallow their seventh consecutive defeat, including three by a single goal. Trevor Hyatt netted the tally for Alaska, as his offering was saved by Jeff Lerg but the goaltender bobbled and dropped the puck in front of him. An opportunistic Hyatt pounced on the rebound and buried it for his first goal of the season.
Michigan State will play at home again next weekend, hosting Lake Superior in an important CCHA set. The Nanooks will also have a home series next weekend, hosting Michigan.
Notes: Michigan State improved to 8-1-1 at home this season, and moved into sole possession of third place in the CCHA standings with 21 points. Notre Dame leads the pack with 27 points, and Miami has 25 ... The Spartans have now recorded CCHA sweeps of Northern Michigan on the road and Alaska at home. All four games were one-goal affairs ... The 48 shots on Alaska netminder Wylie Rogers was a season high for MSU ... Michigan State has killed 22 of their last 23 power play chances against ... MSU is 11-1-1 in games in which it scores first and has outscored its opponent 20-5 in the third period and overtime over the last ten games ... Bryan Lerg's nine-game scoring streak came to an end ... Howells tied his career high with his fifth three-point game ...