March 10, 2012
By Neil Koepke, MSUSpartans.com staff writer
The first sign that it was going to be a long, long miserable Friday night for Michigan State?
When Miami scored 12 seconds into the game.
After the Spartans had four quality scoring chances in the first period and each time the puck did not go into the net.
Want to go one more? The third sign?
After another good MSU scoring chance turned into a big save by Miami goaltender Connor Knapp early in the second period, the RedHawks came right back down the ice to score -- and then 24 seconds later boosted their lead to 3-0.
For the Spartans, the nightmare ended only when the game ended as Miami added two more goals in the middle period and one in the third and routed MSU, 6-0, in the first game of a CCHA best-of-three quarterfinal series in front of 2,206 fans at Steve Cady Arena.
"We absolutely got throttled,'' MSU junior center Anthony Hayes said. We know the feeling we had in that locker room (after the game). We don't ever want to have it again.''
The 15th-ranked Spartans (19-14-4) have faced major challenges all season and have done a good job rebounding. Now, they face arguably their biggest hurdle - beating Miami on Saturday and keeping their CCHA and NCAA playoffs alive.
MSU and the No. 11 RedHawks (22-13-2) meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at Steve Cady Arena. A RedHawks' victory sends Miami to Detroit for next week's CCHA Championship and could end MSU's season, unless it sneaks into the NCAA Tournament with one of the last at-large spots.
If the Spartans find a way to score on Knapp and it leads to a victory, a deciding Game 3 in the series will be at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
"The great part of sports is that 90 percent of the time there is another game,'' Hayes said. "We know that wasn't the Michigan State hockey team (that showed up) all this season.
"We're excited with the opportunity to come back and show everyone that this was a fluke and that we can play with a lot more heart and desire than we showed tonight.''
After going down 1-0, the Spartans pushed back and generated some good chances - by forwards Lee Reimer, Kevin Walrod, Chris Forfar and Dean Chelios - but couldn't finish
Meanwhile, the four goals allowed in the second period were the most the Spartans have given up in one period all season.
"We had a little bit of a slip in the first couple of seconds, but I liked how we bounced back the rest of the first period,'' MSU senior right wing Trevor Nill said. "I didn't like our compete level the rest of the game. That's not how we should be playing.
"The mental toughness of this team is one of our strong points. Coach said in the locker room that this game could have been 3-2 or 6-0 and we'd be in the same position we're in now. We had to work hard, show up and win the game (on Saturday).''
The RedHawks gave the Spartans fits because of their size, skill and another dominant game by Knapp, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound senior from York, N.Y., who earned his career-high fifth shutout of the season and second in a row over MSU.
Knapp played in both games against the Spartans in a 2-1 in overtime and 4-0 sweep in early January. Saturday's loss was MSU's most lopsided of the season, topping the 4-0 defeat at the hands of Miami.
"A disappointing effort tonight,'' MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "I give Miami tons of credit because they dominated the game from the drop of the puck. We played decent in the first period but not well in the second and third and Miami had a lot to do with it.
"They play very well defensively and they're very talented (on offense). They made some nice plays. We gave them too much room. You make those plays by having lots of jump and be willing to pay the price to go to those open areas and then the puck comes to you.''
The Redhawks, who have won seven games in a row, used their size and strength to their advantage in both the defensive and offensive zones. They outshot MSU, 39-27, and skated off six penalties, including a 5-on-3 Spartan power play for 1 minute and 37 seconds in the third period.
"Size is a big factor. We have to find ways to compete harder against that,'' Anastos said. "Obviously, (we don't have) big bodies so we need to compete harder They definitely play a style that is more difficult for us to match up against. We have to work harder to figure it out.''
Said Hayes, "Our compete level to have success against this team has to be through the roof. Ninety percent doesn't get it done. Ninety-five percent doesn't get it done. It has to be 100 percent.
"This game will be erased from our memory. I think it has sat with us enough already. I don't think we need much to motivate us for tomorrow.''
Center Blake Coleman had a goal and an assist, center Austin Czarnik chipped in with two assists and right wing Tyler Biggs had one goal.
Top goal-scorer Reilly Smith, the left wing on a line with Cznarnik and Mullen, was held to one assist but he had five shots on goal. Smith has a CCHA-leading 26 goals.
Overtime games and some upsets were plentiful.
In the CCHA, No. 11 seed Bowling Green shocked No. 1 seed Ferris State, 3-2, in overtime to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three series. Last week, the Falcons upset No. 6Northern Michigan, 3 games to 2. The Bulldogs need to win on Saturday night to set up a deciding Game 3 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, No. 2 seed Michigan and No. 8 Notre Dame went to double overtime before the Wolverines won it, 2-1.
In another CCHA matchup, No. 3-seed Western Michigan held on for a 4-2 victory over No. 7 Lake Superior State.
In the WCHA, No. 8 seed Michigan Tech upset No. 5 Colorado College, 3-1, and No. 10 Wisconsin upset No. 3 Denver, 1-0. The top two seeds won - No. 1 Minnesota edged No. 12 Alaska-Anchorage, 2-1, and No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth topped No. 11 Minnesota State, 4-2
Hockey East regular-season champion Boston College held off No. 8 seed Massachusetts, 2-1, but No. 3 Boston University wasn't so fortunate. The Terriers lost to No. 6 seed New Hampshire, 3-2, in two overtimes.
No. 2 UMass-Lowell evened its series against No. 7 Providence with a 3-2 win in overtime. On Thursday, Providence won the series opener, 5-3.
In the ECAC, No. 2 seed Cornell scored late in the second overtime to top No. 9 Dartmouth, 4-3, while No. 6 Yale defeated No. 3 Harvard, 2-1, in overtime.