East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State won its fourth consecutive game of the season - and sixth-straight over Northern Michigan - with a 3-2 victory over the Wildcats tonight at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans improve to 4-1 and sweep their first CCHA set of the season, while NMU falls to 1-5, 0-4 CCHA with its fifth straight loss. All five goals in the game came on the power play - MSU was 3-for-4 with the man advantage, while NMU was 2-for-5.
The Spartans wasted little time getting on the board, posting their first goal of the night at 1:39 while skating on the power play. Ratchuk had the puck at the blue line and dished it off to Nick Sucharski in the left circle. Sucharski pinched, and got goalie Derek Janzen to commit - the winger then passed off to Bryan Lerg in the right circle, who had a wide-open right side to deposit his first goal of the season.
Tim Kennedy added his second goal in as many nights when he potted another power-play goal for MSU at 13:34. Kennedy tucked the puck past the left leg of Janzen, off assists from Tim Crowder and freshman blueliner Jeff Petry.
Michigan State had a chance to add to the lead with under a minute remaining in that opening frame, but Matt Schepke's breakaway attempt ricocheted harmlessly off the crossbar.
Jeff Lerg was sharp in the early part of the middle frame, stopping Gregor Hanson a two-on-one break after a turnover in the defensive zone, stopped a mini-breakaway by freshman Phil Fox, then halted Hanson again with a shot on the power play to keep the Wildcats off the board.
With the Wildcats on an extended power play due to back-to-back penalties whistled against Petry and Justin Abdelkader, NMU's Nicholas Kosionski was assessed a five-minute major for checking from behind. Skating four-on-four for the final minute of the Abdelkader penalty, Jeff Lerg got some help from the right pipe on a Billy Smith shot, then again at the 12:16 mark when Smith and Ray Kaunisto had a two-on-one break and Kaunisto sent a rocket netward. The Spartans had no luck solving Janzen on their extended man advantage.
The Wildcats got on the board at the 16:05 mark of the second period, converting on a nice cross-slot pass on the power play. Matt Butcher took the pass from TJ Miller on the right side, and sent a laser into the left circle for Nick Sirota. Sirota one-timed the puck past Jeff Lerg for his fourth goal of the season.
Northern got the equalizing tally at the 7:43 mark, when Jared Brown's slapshot from the left point made its way through a screen in front and into the back of the Spartan net. However, Michigan State regained the lead less than a minute later, skating on its fourth power play opportunity of the night - Ray Kaunisto was whistled for hooking at 8:02 for the Wildcats. Corey Tropp corralled the puck low and moved it to Nick Sucharski on the right point, who passed off to Ratchuk in the high slot. Ratchuk took a stride to his left and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Janzen for his second point of the night and first goal of the season.
The Wildcats, who scored extra-attacker goals in each of their last two games, wanted to pull Janzen in the final minute in an effort to gain another tying goal, but the Spartans pushed the puck deep into the NMU territory until there was under 30 seconds remaining to hold on for the one-goal lead. Janzen finished with 23 saves, while Jeff Lerg had a season-best 33 for his fourth victory of the season.
Michigan State will undertake its longest road trip of the season next weekend when it plays a set at Alaska. The Wildcats will be on the road at Bowling Green.