Ninth-Ranked MSU Beats Men’s Hockey

Max Yadin

The Colgate Raiders played a double header last week in East Lansing, Michigan against the defending Division I champion, the Michigan State (MSU) Spartans. MSU manhandled Colgate, 6-3 in last Friday’s game. Determined to put up a better showing before heading back home, Colgate returned to the ice the next day and lost a tough defensive battle, 2-1.

“They really came after us hard,” Head Coach Don Vaughan said. “But our guys never gave up or threw in the towel.”

The Raiders were behind for reasons they could not control heading into Friday’s game. Not only was this the Spartans’ home opener, but Michigan State had just lost 6-0 to #1 North Dakota in its last game and was looking to rebound in a big way. Also, MSU raised its championship banner that night and wanted to impress the roaring crowd at Munn Ice Arena.

“They raised the banners, and we got caught up in it,” Vaughan said.

In the middle of the first period, MSU scored on its second power play of the night when junior Matt Schepke swept the puck past senior goaltender Mark Dekanich. With 5:02 left in the frame, MSU won a face-off by the Raider’s net. First-year Dustin Gazley got the puck and sent it whizzing by Dekanich’s right shoulder. MSU was now up, 2-0. The Spartans put another goal on the board when Gazley intercepted Dekanich’s attempt to clear the puck and put the disk into the open net. The Spartans would end the period with a 3-0 lead.

Early in the second period, it became obvious that the Spartans had no plans of letting up. Less than two minutes in, Dekanich made a quick save on a Spartan shot. Unfortunately, MSU senior Bryan Lerg cleaned up and poked the puck beyond the goal line. Dekanich was then pulled from the game.

“We weren’t giving him enough support,” Vaughan said. “It was our fault.”

Senior Justin Kowalkoski played goalie for the rest of the night.

“I was hoping that by putting him [Kowalkoski] in, the guys would get a jump start and it worked,” Vaughan said. “He made a couple of big saves, and the guys rallied around him.”

Unfortunately, the Spartan machine kept up chugging in the second period. Forty-five seconds after the Raiders changed goalies, Spartan junior Kurt Kivisto fired a shot from the blue line that floated over Kowalkoski’s glove and slammed into the cage, giving MSU a five-goal lead. That would be the only shot Kowalkoski would let in for the rest of the second period.

Not long after, Colgate put itself on the board when senior Jesse Winchester passed to classmate Tyler Burton, after sneaking it by two MSU defenders. Burton beat Spartan junior goaltender Jeff Lerg to prevent the shutout. MSU answered Colgate’s mark when the Spartans converged on goal during a power play and Justin Abdelkader was able to score his first goal of the season. Colgate kept fighting, and it paid off when first-year Brian Day scored a low-angle shotto make the score 6-2. At the 14:21 mark of the third period, Colgate attacked on a power play, and sophomore Jason Williams scored. Though the Raiders never accepted defeat, they were not able to come back for the win.

“In the big picture, we’ll pull a lot of positives from the game,” Vaughan said.

Saturday night’s game was entirely different. MSU scored both of its goals within the opening 10 minutes of play. The Spartan’s first goal came during a power play at the 6:45 mark when Senior Daniel Vukovic shot hard on net and junior Tim Kennedy redirected the shot past Dekanich’s left side. Later on in the period, sophomore Mike Ratchuk forced a Raider turnover and got the puck to junior Tim Crowder. Crowder would then pass the puck to Abdelkader, who got the goal at 9:13. But after being scored on twice in the first 10 minutes, Dekanich became utterly unstoppable. He did not let another puck past the line for the rest of the night and made 25 saves overall.

“He [Dekanich] is a heck of a competitor,” Vaughan said. “Mark’s a great player, and I had no doubt he’d come out Saturday night and fight like he did.”

On a Colgate five-on-three power play, Winchester led Colgate to the enemy zone and fired a shot on the Spartan’s goal with less than five minutes to go in the first period. Spartan goalie Jeff Lerg knocked the puck away, but Williams knocked it right back in. The rest of the evening was characterized by dueling defenses, lead by their respective goalies. With nine minutes left in the second period, Burton was given a penalty shot opportunity after being taken down on a breakaway. He let off a nifty wrist shot, but Lerg made the save with his blocker. Neither team would score for the rest of the night and MSU would win its second game of the season.

“Saturday night was one of those games that could have gone either way,” Vaughan said. “But our guys never gave up.”

Colgate will play in the Governor’s Cup against conference foes on Friday and Saturday, which will be played at the Times Union Center in Albany.