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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spartans sweep Western Michigan

By Bob Miller/Western Michigan Beat Writer

Prior to his arrival in East Lansing, Will Yanakeff played for the U.S. National Team Development team.

He didn't get near the adulation afforded Jack Campbell, his goaltending partner in the national program.

Although he's again sharing netminding duties at Michigan State, this time with senior Drew Palmisano, Yanakeff is serving notice that he's the goaltender to fear in the Spartan lineup.

Stopping 38 shots on Friday night and then 28 more on Saturday night, Yanakeff led Michigan State to a two-game sweep heavily-favored Western Michigan, and he did it in the perilous road confines of Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo.

The Spartans jumped out to an early 2-0 lead Friday night on goals by Daultan Leveille and Kevin Walrod. Matt Tennyson drew the Broncos within one, but Mike Merrifield re-established the two-goal Spartan lead, 3-1, before the game's second period concluded.

Even though Dennis Brown again pulled the Broncos within one goal just a minute into the period, Yanakeff stopped the remaining 13 shots thrown his way in the final period to preserve the win.

In the finale on Saturday night, Yanakeff stood strong again and Merrifield scored a pair of goals for the Spartans to spur the 4-2 victory.

"I thought that we needed two things coming into the weekend: poise, and toughness," said Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos. "I was very impressed with our team this weekend. Even when things did not go our way, there was no panic. We stayed composed and just kept working hard. I'm very proud of this team right now."

Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray was philosophical about the back-to-back weekend losses.

"I've been around this sport a lot, and when you win, there's a book of winning, and you take it out, and you can answer all the things about winning," Murray started after Saturday's loss. "We played as a team, we competed hard, we battled, we were disciplined, we were good with the puck.

"The book of losing, I could pull it out and answer all the questions tonight. We were pressing too much, we were tight, we let the fans get to us, all the different things. But ultimately, we have to be better, as coaches, as individual players, and raise our level for the next game. We simple have to be better. Great fans, what an exciting atmosphere, it's a great advertising for hockey - that's for sure."

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