Feb. 15, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. - - A wild third period saw Michigan State twice pull within a goal, but visiting Northern Michigan twice countered with clutch scores - including an empty-netter just seconds after MSU rallied for an extra-attacker goal - and the Wildcats hung on for a 5-3 win on Friday at Munn Ice Arena.
Reed Seckel's empty-netter with 11 seconds remaining secured NMU's seventh conference win of the season. Seckel (2g, 2a) and linemates Matt Thurber (2g, 2a) and Erik Higby (1g, 1a) handled the bulk of the Wildcat scoring on the evening. NMU is now 13-14-4, and 7-12-4-1 in CCHA play. MSU falls to 8-20-3 overall and 6-15-1-0 in conference action.
All of MSU's goals came in the final 10:20 of regulation, as the team rallied from a 3-0 deficit to twice pull within a goal at 3-2 and 4-3. Matt Berry and Jake Chelios scored at 9:40 and 14:52 in the third period to erase a seemingly safe 3-0 NMU lead, and Brent Darnell added a power-play marker at 19:21 after Thurber had silenced the crowd with a goal at 17:35 that pushed the Wildcat lead back to two goals.
"We continue to make fatal errors," said head coach Tom Anastos. "It's February 15th - some of these errors and mistakes are really not acceptable. We talk about them, we practice them - but they continue to happen. It's frustrating. On the flip side, there were some positives - I liked the way we battled back, and got ourselves back into the game."
The visitors took a 2-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of the game. Northern Michigan took advantage of a defensive-zone turnover at the top of the left circle, as Thurber intercepted an errant pass and sent it netward. Hildebrand made the first save, but Erik Higby was there to redirect it from the doorstep on the right side at 10:54.
At 13:21, Ryan Trenz's shot from the left point pinballed off a couple of players in front of a screened Hildebrand, and it found its way to Seckel at the right post. He popped it past the goalie for his 11th goal of the season.
MSU had some chances early in the second period, and kept pace with its visitors in that middle frame until a late power-play chance for the Wildcats allowed them a power-play goal at 17:38. With Chris Forfar in the box, Thurber's wrister from the hash marks beat Hildebrand for a 3-0 lead.
The Spartans got on the board at the 9:41 mark of the third period to break up the shutout. Berry took a pass from Travis Walsh, skated in on Coreau, drew to his backhand, and roofed his 12th goal of the season. It was Berry's first goal since the GLI consolation game on Dec. 30.
MSU pulled within a goal just over five minutes later. With Mitch Jones sent off on a tripping call, the Spartans had two near-misses - Tanner Sorenson's shot caromed off the post, and a minute later Berry nearly had a second goal as his nifty stickwork as he wrapped around the back of the net nearly found its intended destination. With just 12 seconds remaining in the power play, John Draeger got the puck to Jake Chelios in the high slot, just inside the Spartans logo. Chelios' blast found its way to the net and snuck over the line before coming back out and into play - but was immediately signaled a goal by the official. Two reviews of the play by the officials later, the goal stood and the Spartans went about their effort to tie the game over the balance of regulation.
The Spartans were riding the wave of momentum, in search of an equalizing tally - but instead, the Wildcats added an insurance tally with 2:25 remaining in regulation. Off a faceoff in the Spartan zone to the right of Hildebrand, Austin Handley got the puck over to Thurber in the right circle, and Thurber's slapshot resulted in his second goal of the night, and stood as the eventual game-winner.
MSU was not about to go quietly, however, battling as the time ticked off the scoreboard clock. With Hildebrand on the bench in favor of an extra skater, Brent Darnell stripped the puck from a defenseman in the high slot and as he was falling, swiped at the puck with his stick; the shot beat Coreau five-hole, and MSU trailed by just a goal with 32 seconds remaining.
With Hildebrand once again on the bench and MSU pressing for an equalizer as the seconds ticked away, the Wildcats delivered an empty net goal to seal the victory - Seckel sent the puck the length of the ice for his second goal of the night and a game-sealing empty-net marker.
Hildebrand finished with 29 saves, while Coreau made 31 in his end for the victory.
The teams will complete their two-game series on Saturday at Munn Ice Arena.