Spartans fall in the first day of Great Lakes Invitational
DETROIT — There wasn’t much more that could have been asked of Wojiech Stachowiak on Sunday.
Michigan State’s freshman wing from Gdansk, Poland scored his first two collegiate goals and it was enough to keep the Spartans alive in regulation, but the performance was overshadowed by Lake Superior State captain Diego Cuglietta’s overtime winner to give the Lakers a 4-3 victory in the Great Lakes Invitational at Little Caesars Arena.
“It was unfortunate, but that’s hockey,” MSU coach Danton Cole said. The loss marks the Spartans’ (6-10-1) third in a row as the second half of the season is underway.
Cuglietta scored with 1:55 left in the extra period as a result of an icing call on the Spartans. He fought to get control after a shot was deflected off of MSU goalie John Lethemon, and the result was Cuglietta’s second goal of the game.
“I was just lucky enough to get a stick on it and it got in,” he said.
Despite MSU outshooting LSSU 32-30, costly turnovers in the defensive zone provided the Lakers (10-6-1) with enough chances to score three straight goals.
The Spartans built a 2-0 lead early in the first period before entering the intermission tied. Dennis Cesana scored his second goal of the season on an unassisted shot from behind the goal line to the left of Lakers goalie Nick Kossoff to open scoring with 16:29 left in the period. Stachowiak extended MSU’s lead with 9:57 to play on a feed from Taro Hirose for his first collegiate goal and Hirose’s 20th assist, which leads all Division I players.
“I don’t think we were playing spectacular, I don’t think it was all over the place or lopsided or anything,” Cole said. “We got a couple goals to go in then I thought they had to jump for a while and they just played harder, more willing to play simple and let the game workout.”
Lakers wing Anthony Nellis responded to Stachowiak’s first goal with his team-leading 11th score of the year at the 8:51 mark to cut MSU’s lead in half. Cuglietta scored the equalizer on the power-play with 4:18 left after Spartans wing David Keefer was called for tripping.
“I thought, really, all night we gave them too much easy offense,” Lakers coach Damon Whitten said. “Whether it was puck management or an easy goal early on. It was just one of those things where we’re coming off the holidays, I thought we had some really good chances.”
The loss is MSU’s eighth straight in the yearly tournament. A loss for the Spartans would mark their fourth straight last-place finish in the tourney.
The Spartans will play Michigan (6-7-5) to avoid MSU’s fourth straight fourth-place finish in the invitational. The Wolverines lost 3-2 to Michigan Tech (10-7-2) in a shootout Sunday afternoon. The Spartans went 1-0-1 against U-M in a series earlier this season with a 4-3 win at Munn Ice Arena and shootout win in Ann Arbor.
The puck drops at 11:30 a.m. for the runner-up game, while the Lakers and Huskies will start around 2 p.m.