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Spartans overcome Mavericks 3-0 at Munn Ice Arena

November 5, 2009

Junior forward Corey Tropp skates through Maverick defenders in front of Nebraska-Ohama’s net. Tropp scored a goal in the second quarter in the Spartans’ 3-0 victory over tenth-ranked Nebraska-Omaha Thursday night at Munn Ice Arena.

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

Most wouldn’t have predicted it, or even thought it a month ago — but for the night, the MSU hockey team sits alone atop the CCHA standings.

With the Spartans 3-0 victory over No. 10 Nebraska-Omaha being the only college hockey game played Thursday, No. 17 MSU hopped out of a tie with Miami (Ohio) for sole possession of first place in the conference.

“It’s something to be proud of, but it’s not something to be satisfied with,” said junior forward Corey Tropp, whose goal and assist in Thursday’s game put him atop the country in points. “It’s still early in the season. We have a long ways to go.”

Thursday’s victory over the Mavericks marked the third time the Spartans have given an undefeated team their first loss of the season. The win is the seventh of the season for the Spartans, a win count which took until Jan. 16 of last season to accomplish. The victory also marked sophomore goaltender Drew Palmisano’s first shutout as a Spartan, making 31 saves on the night.

“He was making it look easy,” MSU head coach Rick Comley said of Palmisano’s performance. “That’s how you know a goalie is playing well.”

The Spartans (7-2-0 overall, 4-1-0 CCHA) went 2-for-4 on the power play, while the Mavericks went 0-for-4 on their power play opportunities.

“We need the power play to be good, and tonight it was the difference in the game,” Comley said. “They didn’t get one, which is big too, because our penalty killing has probably been our weakest area.”

Freshman forward Derek Grant – who was named the CCHA Rookie of the Month on Tuesday – netted his fifth goal of the season on the power play at 6:47 of the first period. Junior defenseman Jeff Petry took a shot from the point and the rebound went to Grant, who was waiting just inside the right circle. Grant took a quick shot, which was stopped by Nebraska-Omaha netminder John Faulkner. When the rebound went right back to Grant, he took his time and elevated the puck over Faulkner and into the net to give the Spartans the 1-0 lead.

At 16:18 in the second period, the Mavericks had their best scoring opportunity of the night and could have tied up the game. The Spartans were on the power play, but Nebraska-Omaha forward Dan Swanson sprang free on a breakaway, leaving Palmisano wondering “why is there a breakaway when we are on the power play?”

But Palmisano made the save with his blocker and gobbled up the rebound out of midair with his glove.

“He made all the saves when we needed him,” Tropp said. “As a power-play unit, we had a breakdown and he bailed us out. Teams aren’t going to be perfect, and he bailed us out when we made mistakes tonight.”

Freshman forward Anthony Hayes scored his second goal as a Spartan at 5:22 of the second period — his first goal came in the Spartans’ last game, a 5-3 victory over Western Michigan.

And Tropp added his eighth goal of the year at 16:57 of the second period on the power play to give the Spartans the 3-0 lead. Tropp brought the puck in on the right side and walked in on Faulkner, waiting for the goaltender to go down before roofing a hard wrist shot.

In the Spartans last five games prior to Thursday, the outcome has been decided in the final minutes of regulation. But the Spartans weren’t about to have another breakdown late in the game.

“Sometimes, going into the locker room with a lead like that can hurt you because you come out flat in the third period,” Tropp said. “But we addressed that in the locker room and said that we needed to stay focused.”

The result: An MSU victory, the team’s fourth-straight win.

But Comley wasn’t satisfied with game and wants to see more from the Spartans when the two teams meet again at 7:05 Friday at Munn Ice Arena.

“I thought we broke down at times from what we are trying to do,” Comley said. “We did some things that we didn’t quite get burned on, but were close a couple times. I think we can play better.”

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