Saturday, December 4, 2021

Ice hockey earns perfect November mark after weekend sweep

November 27, 2000

While most of the country was relaxing this holiday weekend, the Spartan ice hockey team was busy defending its No. 1 ranking and earning national respect at the College Hockey Showcase.

The Spartans (10-1-2 overall, 7-1-1 CCHA) swept a weekend series from two Western Collegiate Hockey Association powers, solidifying their top ranking and extending their unbeaten streak to 10.

The Spartans topped No. 2 Minnesota 3-2 and No. 12 Wisconsin 6-2, capping their first perfect November (6-0-1) since the 1988-1989 season.

“Our one-on-one strength helped us a lot and we were mentally and physically prepared,” senior left wing Damon Whitten said. “Both of them were good teams, but Minnesota was one of the best opponents we’ve played.”

MSU, Minnesota, Wisconsin and No. 7 Michigan participated in the annual showcase.

MSU beat up on the struggling Badgers (8-8), on Sunday behind two goals each from Whitten and senior right wing John Nail.

Junior defenseman Andrew Hutchinson fed Whitten with a pass that Whitten one-timed into the Badger net 1:06 into the game.

Wisconsin scored the next two goals to take a 2-1 lead, but MSU tallied the last five scores of the game for the win. The Spartans converted on both of their power play chances.

Sophomore defenseman John-Michael Liles and junior right wing Adam Hall scored for the Spartans. Hall’s goal gives him eight for the year, the most on the team.

“We’ve had opportunities to score before but the puck didn’t go in,” Mason said. “Tonight, the puck went in.”

MSU opened the weekend with a No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown at Minnesota on Friday night.

Entering the game, the Gophers (9-3-2) were ranked first in the USA Today poll and second in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll, and the Spartans in reverse order.

Minnesota got on the board first and had a 1-0 lead in the third period until sophomore left wing Steve Clark evened the score 3:20 into the frame.

Clark corralled the rebound from junior defenseman Jon Insana’s point shot and poked it into an open net for his second goal of the year.

The Spartans took a 2-1 lead less than a minute later when freshman center Jeremy Jackson converted on a one-on-one move and slipped the puck past Gopher goaltender Adam Hauser for his fifth goal of the year.

A Minnesota penalty with 2:33 remaining opened the door for a two-goal outburst, one for each team. Following a short-handed goal by Gopher wing Aaron Miskovich, sophomore left wing Brian Maloney notched the game-winning power play tally with 1:37 left to play.

Sophomore defenseman Brad Fast found Maloney in the faceoff circle and Maloney buried his sixth goal of the year past Hauser.

Maloney and Fast both totaled five points last week, which included a 5-0 win over Lake Superior State on Tuesday.

MSU sophomore goaltender Ryan Miller has allowed two or fewer goals in 12 straight games. He made 25 saves Friday night and 32 Sunday for the wins.

The WCHA plays on a bigger ice surface than the CCHA, but Mason said it wasn’t a problem.

“We made the ice smaller and turned it into our rink,” Mason said. “We hung in the games and got some goals and I can’t ask for anything more.”

U-M also won both of its games in the showcase, giving the CCHA a perfect record over the two WCHA teams. The Wolverines beat Wisconsin 3-2 on Thanksgiving night and topped Minnesota 4-1 on Saturday.

“Our league was kind of down last year and we thought we got slighted at the NCAAs,” Whitten said. “This definitely looks good for the league.”

MSU will play in its first CCHA road series in more than a month this weekend at Bowling Green. The games at BGSU Ice Arena will be at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“As a coach, I’m always worried about a letdown,” Mason said. “But so far this team has had good character and character is what keeps you going.”

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