Freshman center Matt DeBlouw scored 3:02 into overtime as Michigan State’s hockey team defeated Alaska 2-1 in the opener of its first-round CCHA Playoffs series early Saturday morning at Fairbanks, Alaska.
It was the Spartans’ first playoff victory since March 28, 2008 against Colorado College in the NCAA Tournament first round. MSU had lost 10 consecutive postseason games, as well as 10 in a row in the CCHA Playoffs dating back to a win over Northern Michigan on March 14, 2008.
The 11th-seeded Spartans (12-22-3) can pull off the upset and close out the best-of-three series later tonight when they play the sixth-seeded Nanooks (16-15-4) in Game 2 at Carlson Center. Faceoff is 11:05 p.m. EST, and the game audio will be streamed at www.spartansportsnetwork.com and is available on radio in the Lansing area at WJIM 1240-AM. There is no TV broadcast.
DeBlouw’s first career game-winner was his seventh goal of the year and his first since Jan. 19 at Ferris State. He got assists from fellow freshman Ryan Keller and sophomore right wing Matt Berry, his team-leading 26th point of the season.
MSU played through a team-wide flu bug, coach Tom Anastos told the team’s postgame radio broadcast. Defenseman Matt Grassi did not play, and fellow senior forward Anthony Hayes managed to play through the illness.
Even with freshman forward David Bondra dressing in Grassi’s place and the Spartans playing with just five defensemen, MSU killed all five Alaska power play opportunities.
Anastos called it a “gritty” victory with the circumstances.
Junior goalie Will Yanakeff, who sat out last weekend’s final regular-season series vs. Western Michigan with an injury, made 34 saves on Friday night/Saturday morning for the victory. He also defeated Alaska two weeks ago and has stopped 110 of 114 Nanook shots in his last three starts.
Sophomore left wing Tanner Sorenson – an Anchorage, Alaska native – scored MSU’s first goal just 27 seconds into Game 1. Defensemen RJ Boyd and John Draeger assisted on Sorenson’s 12th of the season.
Cody Kunyk scored Alaska’s lone goal, beating Yanakeff with 4:16 remaining the first period. The Nanooks finished with a 35-15 edge in shots on goal.
The Spartans dropped two playoff games in overtime at Alaska two years ago – 3-2 in the opener, then 4-3 in double-overtime the next night.
MSU’s last CCHA Playoff series victory came in the second round against Nebraska-Omaha in 2007, the year it won the program’s third national championship.
In other Game 1 CCHA Playoff action Friday night, No. 7 seed Michigan defeated No. 10 seed Northern Michigan in Ann Arbor, 3-2, and No. 8 seed Lake Superior State topped No. 9 Bowling Green in Sault Ste. Marie, 2-0.