Last week against Northern Michigan, MSU's inability to prevent late goals nearly cost them dearly.
It continued to be a problem this weekend, as they allowed a game-tying goal with less than five minutes left in both games against Lake Superior State. On Friday, MSU struck back, winning 4-2. On Saturday, they fell in a shootout.
On Friday, LSSU scored 28 seconds into the game. Midway through the first period, MSU scored two goals two minutes apart from Mike Merrifield and Brett Perlini, respectively. The Lakers tied it up with three minutes left in the game when a Matt Crandell pass from behind his net hit an LSSU player and went past Will Yanakeff for the tying goal.
But Kevin Walrod gave MSU the lead with 1:10 on a rebound and Torey Krug added an empty-netter to seal the win. LSSU carried the play for much of the night and outshot MSU 47-27.
Saturday was a similar script. LSSU took a 1-0 lead, but Dean Chelios tied the game about a minute later. In the third period, Greg Wolfe scored to give MSU the lead, but the Lakers tied the game on a fluky goal when a puck bounced off an LSSU player and past Will Yanakeff with less than five minutes left.
MSU couldn't rebound this time. After overtime, the game went to a shootout. Greg Wolfe scored on a nice deke for MSU's first shot, but LSSU evened up on a Peter Forsberg/Todd Bertuzzi-like toe-drag goal. Matt Berry and Dean Chelios failed to score on MSU's next two shots, and LSSU scored on their third to pick up the extra point. MSU outshot LSSU 39-34.
Powerplay continues to be a major, major issue for MSU. The Spartans are 0-for-26 on the powerplay over the last six games, including 0-for-5 on the weekend against the CCHA's best penalty kill in LSSU. On Saturday, MSU had a five-minute powerplay and gave up a penalty shot. Included in this 0-for-26 streak are some 5-on-3s and five-minute powerplays. It's starting to become a major issue for MSU and could start costing them some games.
From what I've seen of this team this season, Anastos wants an aggressive powerplay and penalty kill. In years past, Rick Comley was very conservative. On his powerplays, the Spartans would pass the puck around for a long time. This year, it seems MSU is much more aggressive, and it's leading to a lot of turnovers and subsequent clears from opponents.
MSU missed an opportunity to get on top of the logjam in the CCHA standings. Entering Saturday, two points separated third place from eighth place. Over the six-game homestand MSU just finished, the Spartans picked up nine points, but it could have been more, with an overtime loss to Miami, backing into a shootout win against NMU and then Saturday. MSU's current standing in the CCHA won't be set until the end of the night, but picking up just nine out of a possible 18 points over the last three weekends is tough.
Now five of MSU's next six games are away from East Lansing, beginning with a two-game series at Ferris State next weekend. If MSU wants to get home ice in the CCHA tournament, they have to make a charge soon.
(Friday box score here, Saturday here)