Feb. 18, 2012
By Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com staff writer
For three periods, Brett Perlini wasn't having much success firing pucks at Alaska goaltender Scott Greenham.
The Michigan State senior center would get the puck and shoot - quick shots, delayed shots and wrist shots. But four times, Greenham made the save.
In overtime, however, a quick-thinking Perlini suddenly found himself with a juicy turnover in front of the Nanook net and decided to make a different move.
Perlini, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, gatherned in a loose puck, drove to the net, faked a wrist shot and quickly went to his backhand and lifted the puck high into the net to give the No. 17 Spartans a 3-2 victory over Alaska in front of 5,984 fans on Friday night at Munn Arena.
"I saw they had trouble with bouncing pucks and just tried to pounce on it and fortunately I got a good bounce,'' said Perlini, took advange of an UAF defenseman mishandling the puck between the faceoff circles.
"I'd been shooting all game and I thought I'd change it up and went for a little deke and it went (to the backhand) and it went in.. It wasn't the prettiest effort but we found a way for it to work.''
Coach Tom Anastos agreed.
"Well . . . it was a win. And in the end, that was the most important thing,'' he said. "We didn't have the emotional edge that I was concerned about all week, but we were able to hang in there and got better as the game went along.
"We played a good third period and built some momentum. It was nice to see the puck go in for us (in overtime).''
The victory lifted the Spartans (17-12-4 overall, 12-10-3-2 CCHA) into sole possession of fourth place with 41 points, still five behind second-place Western Michigan and three in back of third-place Michigan. MSU is two points ahead of fifth-place Miami and Ohio State and three up on seventh-place Lake Superior State.
MSU will try to finish off its second CCHA sweep in the last three weeks when it faces the Nanooks (11-16-4, 8-15-4-2) at 8 p.m. Saturday on Senior Night at Munn Arena. Ceremonies honoring the Spartans nine seniors begin at 7:30 p.m.
Perlini's goal, his ninth of the season, gave MSU its first overtime victory since the second game of the season. It was Perlini's first OT goal at MSU.
Since defeating Air Force, 3-2 in OT on Oct. 8, overtime hasn't been fun for the Spartans. They were 0-3-4 in overtime coming into Friday's game, including a 3-2 loss against Michigan last Saturday in Detroit.
"Alaska competed hard and really battled for 60 minutes. We had a slow start but in the third period we came out hard,'' Perlini said. "Coach said something between (the second and third) periods that stuck with me. He said this could be the last home series in my career and that hit me hard. I just said `let's leave everything out there.'''
Freshman center Brett Darnell scored two goals within 35 seconds in the first period, giving MSU a 2-1 lead. His first goal came on a power play. UAF got goals from defenseman Scott Enders in the first period and Cody Kunyk on a power-play in the second period.
Spartan goaltender Will Yanakeff, making his fifth straight start, made 25 saves. Greenham stopped 27 shots.
Tied 2-2 after two periods, the third period was exciting, somewhat satisfying and somewhat frustrating for the Spartans.
They had all sorts of great scoring chances, mostly off turnovers. There were breakaways, a wide-open net and other good opportunities, but MSU couldn't finish. Meanwhile, the Spartans had to skate off three Alaska power plays, including a two-man advantage for 1 minute and 12 seconds just two minutes into the period.
"Coach gave it to us a bit (after the second period). He switched the lines a bit, moving (right wing) Greg Wolfe to the line with (Lee) Reimer and (Mike) Merrifield and putting (right wing Matt) Berry on my line with Perlini,'' said junior left wing Kevin Walrod, who was dangerous most of the game and had seven shots on goal.
"We were getting our chances here and there. I had a wide-open net (during an UAF power play in the third period) and was off balance a bit and hit the post. I didn't feel my best before the game, but sometimes that happens. Once I got going, I felt I was in a zone at both ends of the ice.''
MSU's penalty killers, ranked No. 2 in the nation, killed four of UAF's five power plays. Stopping the Nanooks with a two-man advantage energized the Spartans and the crowd.
"It was a huge kill. They scored a power-play goal earlier and our PK had to step up,'' Anastos said. "Will Yanakeff made a big save. It was a key kill that allowed us to stay in it.''
Perlini, a regular penalty killer, said surviving the Nanooks power play energized his team.
"Those are key moments in games. If they go down and score, they take the momentum,'' he said. "We killed it off with some great team play and then rallied around that and got energy from it.''
The Spartans were quicker, worked harder and created more open space in the third period.
"We were way better in that period. More guys we're going,'' Anastos said. "The lines had more jump, we created more scoring chances and didn't give up as many.''
Anastos said he was impressed with the Nanooks, who are playing their final CCHA series of the regular season and will finish in 10th place and be on the road for the first round of the playoffs.
"They're a good team that plays hard. There's a reason they've beaten some good teams and this is their ninth one-goal loss,'' Anastos said. "We saw what we expected from Alaska. Their goaltender played great. They're difficult to play against.''
SENIORS SALUTED: Nine MSU seniors will play in their final regular-season home game at 8 p.m. Saturday -- goaltender Drew Palmisano, defensemen A.J. Sturges, Brock Shelgren, Matt Crandell and Tim Buttery and forwards Brett Perlini, Trevor Nill, Mike Merrifield and Daultan Leveille.
After trying to battle through the expected letdown coming off last weekend's emotional series against Michigan, the Spartans' next challenge is dealing with the emotion of Senior Night.
"I've seen where it's worked out well and I've seen when it's not worked out well at all. This could be their last home game,'' Anastos said. "I want everyone to enjoy the experience of honoring the seniors, but at the same time show that we've learned something along the way and that we have the maturity to say `game on' and go play a hard game.
"Without a doubt, this will be a real test.''
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Freshman Tanner Sorenson celebrated his 19th birthday on Friday and played a strong game. He almost scored a goal and had three shots on goal and was on the ice for fellow rookie Brett Darnell's second goal.
The Darnell line, with Dean Chelios on left wing and Sorenson on the right side, had seven shots on goal.
"That line played well and had a lot of good chances. They were probably our most consistent line,'' Anastos said.
Darnell has six goals and 13 points in 30 games.
"It was nice chip in. Our line got to play against their top line,'' Darnell said. "It's good to get the ice time, so we have to keep it going.''
CCHA RACE: Ferris State, the No. 1 team in the nation in both major polls, took a big step toward clinching first place in the CCHA with a 5-1 home victory over Bowling Green.
The Bulldogs, 10-0-3 in 2012 and with 50 points, remained five points ahead of second-place Western Michigan, which defeated Lake Superior State, 3-1. U-M, a 4-1 winner over Northern Michigan is one point behind WMU and three up on MSU.
Miami, with 39 points, climbed out of a three-way tie with Notre Dame and NMU and into a tie for fifth with OSU with a 3-0 victory over the Irish, who remain deadlocked with NMU for eighth place.
On Saturday, U-M hosts NMU, WMU is at LSSU, FSU hosts Bowling Green, Notre Dame is at Miami. Ohio State is off this weekend.
Next weekend, the Spartans play at Notre Dame, U-M visits Bowling Green, Miami plays a home-and-home series with Ohio State, FSU plays a home-and-home set against WMU and Lake Superior State plays at Northern Michigan.
IN A SCORE RUT: The Spartans have played in four straight 3-2 games. They beat Ohio State 3-2 on Feb. 4, defeated Michigan, 3-2, on Feb. 10, lost to the Wolverines, 3-2 in overtime in Detroit on Feb. 11 and pulled out a 3-2 victory over UAF on Friday.
MSU is 7-9 in one-goal games this season, and 23 of its last 33 games have been decided by two goals or less and 19 have been by a goal or less.