Lansing State Journal sports reporter Nathaniel Bott breaks down Michigan State hockey’s 8-4 victory at home against Long Island-Brooklyn on Saturday.
MSU was right on it from the opening whistle, spending the opening minutes primarily in LIU’s zone before eventually drawing a penalty on the Sharks. The power play converted on its first attempt as senior forward Jagger Joshua tapped home a puck in the crease for his first of the season.
Then the first period floodgates opened up as the Spartans tallied three more goals to take a 4-0 lead. It started with a mistake from LIU keeper Vinnie Purpura, and sophomore forward Tanner Kelly jumped on the loose puck and fired a shot off the post. It bounced right to linemate Jesse Tucker, who put home the rebound.
Kelly had the primary assist on MSU’s third goal, threading a pass to fifth-year senior defenseman Cole Krygier on the back door to push the lead to 3-0.
Sophomore defense David Gucciardi, who scored in Friday night’s 3-1 win, then barreled into the offensive zone, jumped on a loose puck, toe-dragged his defender and let go a snipe that beat Purpura in the right corner.
After an LIU goal cut the lead to 4-1, MSU got an early power play chance in the second period and capitalized on the man advantage again, with Kelly making another good feed to a streaking Nash Nienhuis, who went to his backhand and took a shot off the post and in.
LIU netted the next two goals, including one from former Spartan Adam Goodsir, but Joshua’s wrist shot goal with 51 seconds left in the second period pushed the lead back to three goals.
LIU’s Spencer Cox made it 6-4 on a wrist shot that beat MSU goaltender Pierce Charleson, who made his season debut in net, early in the third period, but MSU never let the score get any closer.
The Spartans got two power plays late in the third and capitalized on both to make it an 8-4 final. Joshua deflected a shot from freshman Karsen Dorwart to record his first career hat trick. Nienhuis also found himself with a multi-goal game, scoring his second on a fluttering shot over Purpura’s right shoulder.
Charleson made 23 saves for MSU, and the Spartans recorded 50 shots on goal while going 4-7 on the power play.
What it means
Tonight marks MSU’s first game with eight goals since Dec. 1, 2013, in an 8-2 win over Princeton. Fifty shots is a feat that is difficult to accomplish, regardless of the level of competition, and the Spartans again proved to be strong in the third period, putting 19 on net in the final 20 minutes.
It was a dream start for the Spartans to score four in the opening period, and it’s a good sign that they scored first in both games this weekend, something they had yet to accomplish on the young season.
For Joshua, it’s been a complete change in his role over the past three seasons. He earns a hat trick, with two of the goals from finding success in his traditional role around the net, but his second goal came on a well-placed wrist shot from the right circle – something he hasn’t done much in his career.
In his first three years, Joshua was one of the better penalty killers in the conference and was part of a physically imposing checking line. MSU’s coaching staff is tapping into something new with Joshua, who is now a part of the team’s top power play unit and paired on a top line with two skilled freshmen, rather than checking-heavy forwards.
Charleson made a handful of quality saves, and MSU didn’t need him to be otherworldly in net, but LIU was able to beat him on his stick side twice with no traffic in front of him.
The biggest takeaway is the team’s power play success, converting on four of seven opportunities. MSU’s man advantage is one of the few areas that hasn’t been particularly impressive, but Saturday it showed a little bit of what it can really do.
Kelly had three primary assists and the fourth line, with him, Tucker and freshman Tiernan Shoudy, put together a solid game overall.
MSU opens up Big Ten play next weekend on the road against No. 13 Notre Dame. Friday’s game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop, while Saturday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Contact Nathaniel Bott at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Nathaniel_Bott