Late Power-Play Goal Stuns Spartans

The Spartans were able to dodge the five-minute major Friday night, but it cost them the game Saturday as Patrick Lee scored on the power play with 9.9 seconds on the clock to lift UMass to a 4-3 win over the Spartans at Munn Ice Arena.

“I thought we got what we earned,” coach Tom Anastos said. “I didn’t think we were ready to start the game. You just beat a team, you know they are going to come at you hard and we didn’t match that intensity and we’re at home. I was very disappointed in that.”

Lee’s power-play goal came on Michigan State’s second five-minute major penalty of the weekend, this one a contact to the head penalty to alternate captain Justin Hoomaian.

On a positive note, the beat went on for the Spartans’ top line, as they continued to produce. Matt Berry, Michael Ferrantino and Mackenzie MacEachern combined for three goals and three assists. On the weekend, the trio combined for six goals and eight assists.

“It’s gotten better as we’ve gone I think,” said Ferrantino, who registered a goal and assist tonight. “We’re starting to feel our chemistry come up a little bit. I think we talk really well. We’re always communicating whether it’s on the ice or we get back to the bench, we’re constantly critiquing ourselves and figuring out how we can get better.”

The Spartans were without forward Brent Darnell, who received a suspension from the Big Ten for his hit on Ben Gallacher Friday night. Darnell was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding. Tanner Sorenson made his season debut in Darnell’s spot.

The Minutemen made a few roster adjustments as well, including starting freshman goaltender Henry Dill over senior Steve Mastalerz, who started Friday night.

The first 15 minutes of this game appeared to be a goaltending duel until the floodgates opened and the lamp was lit three times in a span of 2:17.

The Minutemen would break the ice with Steven Iacobellis’ first goal of the season. Iacobellis drove the net, threw on the breaks and redirected a centering pass by Ray Pigozzi to the back of the net.

Only 1:20 later, Berry would take the puck up the left wing and beat Dill with a wrist shot to the blocker side to tie the game.

The Minutemen would retake the lead 57 seconds later as Jake Horton deflected a spin-o-rama pass from Iacobellis in the slot.

The Spartans would get even in an unorthodox way close to midway through the second period, as Berry would score his fourth goal of the weekend.

“I was just on the right side of center ice and I tried to dump it cross corner,” Berry said. “Next thing I know, I’m trying to get off the ice and I heard the goal horn go off. I didn’t see it. I didn’t know even what happened. I didn’t see it until the replay.”

As Berry dumped the puck towards the opposite corner, it took an odd bounce on the ice and rocketed back towards the net, completely surprising Dill and it slid to the back of the cage.

The bounce was not a surprise given there were some problems with the ice. Between periods the ice could not be resurfaced so a dry scrape was performed, which ruined the quality of the ice.

“The ice is, essentially, gradually melting,” Anastos said. “As the game wore on, the ice was really wet. You’re really playing prevent to a certain extent because you don’t know how that puck is going to bounce.”

Anastos compared the ice in the latter stages of the game to playing on an outdoor rink.

Early in the third, the Spartans were able to take their first lead of the game with Ferrantino’s first of the year, as he slammed the puck off the crossbar and into the net.

Michigan State would fail to score on the next power play and would start to get into some penalty trouble of it’s own for a good portion of the rest of the game.

“You climb back after a sluggish start and you put yourself in a position to win, you need to take advantage of that,” Anastos said. “We had some good scoring chances that we didn’t finish. We have to take advantage of that.”

With just under five minutes left in the third, the Spartans had trouble clearing the defensive zone and Iacobellis was the beneficiary, as he camped out at the side of the net. The puck bounced its way towards him and he put it in to tie the game at three with 4:32 to go.

Hoomaian would take his contact to the head major 43 seconds later, and Lee’s goal at 19:50 stunned the Munn crowd and stood as the game-winning goal. The goal put UMass at 1-5 on the power play.

Michigan State’s power play was 0-4.

“Coming into the game, I thought the special teams could be a difference in the game. Unfortunately, I was right,” Anastos said. “We dug ourselves out of a hole and put ourselves in a decent position, only to dig ourselves in a hole again. It’s an opportunity for this team to learn some valuable lessons. There’s a lot to learn this weekend, both good and not so good.”

“This one was almost in our lap, so this one stings,” Ferrantino said. “It definitely stings and we wanted to get the sweep at home in front of our fans. It’s tough right now but we will battle back and we have a good weekend coming up for us.”

Next weekend, the Spartans go on the road to New England to take on Boston University and UMass Lowell.

Brian Bobal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports

Photo: Brian Bobal/Impact Sports