East Lansing, Mich. -- - For the second straight game, the third period belonged to Michigan State.
The Spartans once again found their scoring touch when they were desperate to avoid a loss to Niagara.
On Saturday, MSU had to rally twice to earn a 3-3 tie in the second game of a nonconference series against the Purple Eagles in front of 4,602 fans at Munn Arena. In the shootout, played for experience and entertainment purposes, MSU won, 1-0.
The Spartans (1-2-1 overall), who trailed 2-0 entering the final period, tied the game 3-3 on sophomore forward Brent Darnell's goal off a faceoff with 49.4 seconds left. Darnell also set up the goal that tied the game at 2-2, scored the only goal in the shootout and had a team-high nine shots on goal.
In Friday's series opener, MSU overcame a 2-0 deficit with three goals in the final period to pull out an exciting 3-2 victory.
Greg Wolfe, a junior forward and team captain, had a goal - his first of the season - and assisted on Darnell's goal.
"It was good to come from two goals back two nights in a row and tie it up. Even though things didn't go our way in the first two periods, we stuck with it,'' said Darnell, who on Saturday arguably had his best game as a Spartan.
"We got a few ugly one there, going to the net hard.''
Matt DeBlouw, a freshman center, scored his first collegiate goal, going to his backhand to tap in Darnell's rebound to tie it 2-2 at 8:20 of the third period.
Three minutes later, the Purple Eagles (1-2-2) shocked the Munn Arena crowd as Dan Kolenda's unassisted goal gave his team a 3-2 lead.
But with MSU goalie Will Yanakeff (31 saves) pulled for a sixth attacker, Wolfe tapped the puck off a faceoff toward the net, where Darnell's shot caromed off the left post and then Niagara goalie Carsen Chuback (35 saves) and into the net.
"They iced the puck and we got another faceoff (in the MSU zone). There was a loose puck and I chipped it to myself and just tried to get it on net,'' Darnell said. "Luckily, I got it high enough where it hit the post and went of the goalie and in.
"It's not the prettiest goal but I'll take it. Coming in as a sophomore, I want to contribute more offensively to this team. Tonight, I felt I did that. I just want to keep that up.''
The Spartans fell behind 2 -0, giving up a shorthanded goal in the first period by Chris Locher and a power-play goal by Iuorio Giancarlo in the second. MSU lost two players to game misconducts - Matt Berry was assessed a 5-minute major penalty and game misconduct for facemasking at 12:02 and defenseman Rhett Holland took a major for contact to the head at 17:46, also carrying with it a game misconduct.
Coach Tom Anastos was impressed with his team's resiliency but he said he'd like to find the formula for playing better in the first two periods.
"I wasn't impressed with our start. They had more jump and we got outworked in the first period, and that disappointed me,'' he said. "The dynamics changed in the second period but then we had all those penalties.
"They came out more ready than we did and we're going to have to take a look at that and figure out why we weren't as ready as we need to be and fix it. We need to start creating some scoring in the first period.''
The Spartans have scored eight goals in four games and all eight have come in the third period - one each night in two losses at Minnesota and three each game against Niagara.
Anastos had praise for the Spartans' top offensive contributors - Wolfe and Darnell.
"One of reasons Greg Wolfe is captain of the team is that his teammates find that he has the ability to inspire them and I thought he did that tonight,'' Anastos said. "He doesn't do it in a super physical way or by ranting and raving but when he talks, the players listen.
" One player who was good as anyone we had tonight was Brent Darnell. He played really, really well and did a lot of different things. He played in different positions - center, right wing, and left wing. He scored the winning shootout goal, he was key on Matt DeBlouw's goal and scored the tying goal.
"If we can get players like him to emerge, just like Reimer and Wolfe did last year, that would really help us. Hopefully, this was confidence booster.''
The Spartans open CCHA play next weekend with a two-game series on Friday and Saturday at Lake Superior State.
"I like our poised we showed in coming back. The guys kept working and when we changed things up during the game, the guys adapted it to well,'' Anastos said. "The biggest things (about the weeknd) was we had a little bit of success coming off a weekend (at Minnesota) where we had none.
"I hope we can get better every week. It is nice to leave knowing that we came back both nights and got a good result on Friday and a good of a result as possible tonight, give the he circumstances that we put ourselves into.''