by Matt Mackinder / Michigan State Beat Writer
Michigan State escaped with a two-game sweep over Northern Michigan last weekend in East Lansing.
The then-No. 9 Spartans scored four goals in the second period to narrowly beat Northern Michigan, 5-4, Friday night.
The Wildcats struck first on a goal from Nick Sirota and Jared Brown’s first collegiate assist, but the Spartans tied the game with a power-play tally by Justin Abdelkader. Michigan State took a 5-1 lead in the second period as freshmen Andrew Rowe and Corey Tropp recorded their first collegiate goals. Matt Schepke and Tim Kennedy also scored in the middle frame.
Daniel Vulkovic notched two assists.
Northern Michigan didn't let up, however, scoring three times in the third period.
Ray Kaunisto scored his first two goals of the season, including one with the extra attacker with 22 seconds left in the game. Tim Hartung netted the other.
“The puck was jumping all over the place,” MSU head coach Rick Comley said of the third period. “The pucks bouncing like crazy, but maybe in the end, that's another game we need. Because right now, they're too loose in my mind. We got it 5-1 after two and it just looked over. We moved the puck so well up until that point and then things got sloppy and we started turning the puck over. They came at us hard, to their credit, and we lost the battles in the hash-mark in the defensive zone instead of getting pucks out they kept them in. They went to the net with the puck and got sticks on it.”
Jeff Lerg made 21 saves for MSU, while Brian Stewart and Derek Janzen combined for 20 saves on the NMU end. Stewart stopped 14 before being pulled at the start of the third period.
Lerg recorded 33 saves for Michigan State in a 3-2 win over Northern Michigan the next night as MSU scored all three on the power play.
The junior goalie also played in his 60th consecutive game, tying the school record held by Joe Selinger, who set the mark from Jan. 15, 1957-March 14, 1959.
“It is really just a nice compliment obviously from the coaching staff, and everyone here to put that much confidence in me, to keep playing me on a consistent basis,” Lerg said of the record. “I think that is why I try and work hard during the week, and work hard during the offseason, to make sure I can be both mentally and physically to be in shape to play night-in and night-out. I just hope that we continue to do well and hopefully I will get a few more starts along the way.”
Senior captain Bryan Lerg scored his first goal of the season less than two minutes into the game to give the Spartans an early lead. Tim Kennedy made it a 2-0 game late in the first period until Sirota put one past Lerg late in the second period and Brown tied it up for the Wildcats early in the third.
Ratchuk hooked up with Sucharski and Corey Tropp for the game-winner midway through the third period.
“I just wound up and took it,” Ratchuk said. “As I shot it, it was dead silent and finally it hit the net and I just lost it. It was awesome, everybody was going nuts.”
Janzen kicked out 23 shots for the Wildcats.
The now-No. 6 Spartans (4-1-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) travel to Alaska this weekend for the Nanooks' CCHA opener. NMU (1-5-0, 0-4-0 CCHA) hosts top-ranked Miami for two.