EAST LANSING, Mich. — The season is young, but Mason Appleton looks like he is on his way to surpassing the impressive numbers he put up in his rookie season. Appleton had five goals all of last season and in 2016, he has already scored three.
Two of those goals, one of which was the eventual overtime winner, came Friday night in a 3-2 win over Michigan Tech at Munn Ice Arena.
“There were spans in that game where we absolutely dominated and held the puck in their zone for four five minutes,” Appleton said. “That’s really good for our team because we try to be a puck possession team and make plays in the offensive zone. We were able to do that tonight with good success.”
The first period was as close as it could get for two teams who have gone to overtime or beyond in their past five meetings, as no team really held an advantage. The Huskies and Spartans both had seven total shots and both teams saw one of those shots hit the back of the net.
The first was scored by sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn. Appleton threw a puck in front of the net hoping to create some kind of rebound. After ricocheting of the left pad of Tech goaltender Angus Redmond, the puck took a fortuitous bounce right to the stick of Osburn who then went on to score his second of the season.
The duo of Osburn and Appleton had a strong showing in this game, as the sophomore’s had five total points.
That lead for MSU however lasted only 32 seconds before Tech answered. Husky forward Mason Blacklock was able to get in behind the MSU defense and was all alone with Ed Minney. Blacklock tucked a soft pass in between the legs of the Spartan goaltender to tie the score at one.
Michigan Tech is a team that has been known to come back on the Spartans in the past. Both games at Munn last season saw the Spartans get out to a multiple goal lead, only to have the Huskies come back to tie the game.
With Michigan State losing redshirt freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg to an injury last weekend against Princeton, coach Tom Anastos decided to dress seven defensemen. Players such as Anthony Scarsella and Butrus Ghafari logged key minutes.
Anastos said postgame that dressing the extra d-man not only gave his team more depth, but gave them a better energy level to prevent the infamous MTU comeback.
The second period was just as deadlocked as the first, as the two teams really only differentiated in shots on goal. Tech had eight shots on Minney, while the Spartans only managed five against a stout Tech defense that includes three NHL draft picks.
Just under three minutes into the second period, MTU went on a power play and forward Jake Lucchini was in the right place at the right time when he gathered a loose puck and rifled it past a diving Minney to put the Huskies on top.
It took a power play of all things to get Anastos’ team back into the game. Appleton, with an assist already on the night, once again threw a puck at the net trying to create a rebound, this time the puck went in the net. Sometimes a little puck-luck is all a ailing power play needs to get going.
With both teams creating little offensive action in the third period, the game headed to overtime – again.
“I think we’re just both relentless teams,” senior captain Joe Cox said of why these two teams always seem to play each other so close. “We’re going to go 100 mph and were gonna compete until we both play a full 60 minutes. It usually goes down to the wire like it has the last six times, and that’s what makes it fun.”
Early on in the extra session, MTU defensemen and Los Angeles Kings draft pick Matt Roy was assessed a penalty for holding the stick. It didn’t take long for the Spartans to capitalize on such a vital opportunity.
The Munn public address announcer had not even finished announcing the Tech penalty for a crowd of 3,339 before Appleton’s slapshot soared over the left shoulder of Redmond, extended his already three-game point streak to four and lifted the Spartans to victory.
“I thought I had a decent lane to get the puck to the net,” Appleton said. “Villiam [Haag] had a really nice screen in front. With all that traffic, the goalie is just trying to go down and get as big as he can. So I was able to just get it on net and there’s always a chance it goes in.”.
Michigan State will look to complete the sweep of Michigan Tech Saturday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.