In the second half of its opening weekend, Michigan State hockey (1-1) fell to Northern Michigan (1-1) in a back-and-forth affair at Munn Ice Arena. The Wildcats avenged their Friday loss to the Spartans with a decisive 4-3 victory Saturday night.
“Give Northern credit. They were going to come out and play a better game than they did last night,” coach Danton Cole said postgame.
The Wildcats clearly had an edge on all fronts early, including the mental aspect of the game. Tensions flared early, as MSU’s freshman forward Adam Goodsir took an ill-advised crosschecking penalty three minutes into the first period after getting into a scuffle in front of the net.
The Spartans’ penalty kill would effectively neutralize the Wildcat power play, however, after a quality scoring chance by NMU’s forward Darien Craighead.
But the Spartans failed to control the puck throughout the first period, as, seven minutes into the opening period, an odd-man-rush by the Wildcats resulted in a goal from the right circle by sophomore Joseph Nardi.
After failing to convert on a power play later in the period, MSU would start to create quality opportunities, including a shot by senior forward Cody Milan that trickled between NMU goaltender Atte Tolvanen’s legs and slid wide.
Northern Michigan would contain the Spartans’ forecheck for the remainder of the first period by maintaining the physicality they presented from the start, as they sent the game into intermission with a 1-0 lead.
After failing to convert any of its nine shots in the first period into goals, MSU would strike first in the second. Junior forward Sam Saliba sent a wrist shot from the right hash past Tolvanen seven minutes into the second. He was assisted by senior defenseman Zach Osburn and junior forward Logan Lambdin.
Three minutes later the Wildcats would respond, as forward Adam Rockwood capitalized on a rebound from defenseman Ryan Black’s shot. Northern Michigan would continue to control the puck for the majority of the contest, as Michigan State failed to create scoring chances, which was something Cole talked about after the game.
“I thought we played a little bit too much one-on-one hockey for two periods and tried to do a little too much and that slowed down our second guy,” Cole said. “That affected our forecheck, and that affected our offensive zone time.”
Northern Michigan would tack on yet another goal in the second period. This time, MSU was unable to kill the penalty effectively, as Wildcat forward Denver Pierce converted on a power play.
Down 3-1 to start the third period, MSU responded quickly with a goal less than two minutes in. hitting a shot off the right post and in, junior forward Taro Hirose brought the Spartans within a goal early into the final period. Freshman defenseman Dennis Cesana and junior forward Patrick Khodorenko assisted on the play.
Khodorenko would again make his presence felt as he netted a power play goal from a sophomore forward Mitchell Lewandowski pass less than a minute later to tie the game at 3-3.
For the remaining 15 minutes, the Spartans failed to create any real chances offensively.
Northern Michigan would capitalize on the Spartans’ lack of offense with another goal of their own, as Darien Craighead sent a shot past freshman MSU goaltender Drew DeRidder’s glove with 13 minutes left to play.
“He’s a young guy,” Cole said of DeRidder. “There’s not a lot of 18-year-old goalies playing division one hockey … I know he’s probably ticked off about the fourth goal after we tied her up. He probably wanted to shut the door and give us a chance, but he played fine.”
The Spartans would resort to an empty-net attack with 1:30 remaining but failed to tie the game. Northern Michigan’s 4-3 lead would hold.
The Spartans will look to go above .500 when they travel to Cornell Oct. 26 for another two-game series.
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