It was a night of firsts at Munn Ice Arena on Friday. The Spartans had their first lead of the season, some players got their first goal of the season while others got their firsts as a member of Michigan State. Goaltender Ed Minney even got his first career win. But the most important stat to come out of this was a 6-2 win for the Spartans over Princeton.
“I thought this was another game of progress,” coach Tom Anastos said postgame. “We saw some progress in our game in certain areas forsure. Nice to see six pucks go into the net and some of the opportunities that we were able to generate, and how it was generated.”
The Spartans came out buzzing in the first period. Firing shot after shot at Tiger goaltender Colton Phinney, who stopped 10-of-11 shots in the opening 20 minutes of play. The one shot that did get through came on the power play. Mason Appleton was able to find Villiam Haag wide open in the front of the net. The senior tucked home his second goal of the season to put the Spartans up 1-0, a lead that they would hold throughout the first 20 minutes of play.
“If it was a 0-0 game, you kind of have it in the back of your head that if you let in one that can be it, especially when your team has been struggling to score,” Minney said. “So I think getting that early lead gives but only me, but every one a little bit of confidence.
MSU nearly had a chance to go up 2-0 on Princeton’s only power play chance of the period. The Tiger defense left Taro Hirose wide open in the offensive zone and the freshman sent a shot that went over the glove of Phinney and went bar-down. However, after further review, the referee’s ruled that the puck did not actually cross over the goal line on the way down. The score would remain 1-0.
The Spartan defense was effective as well, only allowing seven shots on the period. None of which were really any trouble for Minney. The Tiger offense is a quick one that is hard on the puck, but the Spartans were able to limit them to 23 total shots.
“Our D looked really good today,” Minney said. “This is the best game by far that they’ve played. They had good sticks on pucks. There were a lot of blocked shots on good scoring opportunities. That gives me a lot of confidence to be back there knowing that they got my back like I’ve got theirs.”
The scoring picked up in the second period as the two teams traded goals.
Brennan Sanford opened the scoring just 32 seconds into the second stanza. The sophomore took a pass in front of the net from senior captain Joe Cox, and sent his first of the season past Phinney to put the Spartans up 2-0.
But that two goal lead was short-lived as the Tigers pulled back to within one thanks to sophomore Alex Riche, who took a pass right in front of Minney for his first of the season.
Coming into tonight, the Green and White were 15-of-21 with a man down, good for 71.4 percent.
The power play was effective yet again Friday night, as the Spartans killed off all four Tiger power play’s.The penalty kill was so effective, MSU was even able to get a goal off of it.
Hirose, who saw a goal called back earlier in the night, got his first career goal with the Spartans on a two-on-one with Appleton. This time, Hirose was able to put the puck into a wide open net, extending the MSU lead to 3-1.
The line of Appleton, Hirose and Patrick Khodernko have been a strong one for the Spartans through the first four games, with five combined points coming into the matchup with Princeton. Anastos hopes to see the three players continue to grow as the season progresses.
“They played off each other well, and that’s kind of what you look for,” Anastos said. “I thought that was a real positive tonight.”
Michigan State was able to build on their lead as another first came to light. Half way through the second period, defenseman Carson Gatt skated down the left side of the ice and right in on net. The defenseman sent a wrist shot just over the blocker of Phinney, giving his team a 4-1 lead on his first career goal.
The Tigers wouldn’t go away quietly, however. Just a few minutes after Gatt scored, Riche used it speed to blow by two Spartan defenders. He then put a nice deke on Minney, and scored his second of the night. That would be all for the Tigers in the goal department.
The Spartans would tack on two more goals from Logan Lambdin and Cox to propel the Spartans to a 6-2 win. The Spartans came to life in this game, a week after they had only two total goals in the series against Denver.
“I think it was just a little more confidence and a little more experience,” Cox said of his teams elevated production. “Guys were starting to settle in, settle the puck down and put it where it needs to be. A couple games can do a lot for someone.”
This win seemed like a long time coming for the Spartans. They put up an excellent effort against then No. 6 Denver last weekend, but did not have a lot to show for it. This weekend, coach Anastos saw his offense explode with goals from six different players, a trend he would like to see as his team gets ready for Michigan Tech.
“It was nice to see it spread around,” Anastos said of his teams production. “I thought we got some good looks from our defense. So we got contribution both from our blue line and up front. So again, a sign of progress, which is what we were looking for.”
The Spartans will welcome the Huskies to Munn Ice Arena starting on Nov. 4 for a weekend series. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on both nights.