Michigan State’s hockey team will play a season-deciding Game 3 on Sunday at Alaska after a 4-1 defeat on Saturday night/early Sunday morning at Carlson Center in Fairbanks.
The sixth-seeded Nanooks evened the first-round CCHA Playoffs series by taking control of the 11th-seeded Spartans (12-23-3) in the first two periods. The two teams will play Game 3 starting at 11:05 p.m. EDT on Sunday - 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.
The winner advances to the second round of the CCHA Playoffs, and the loser’s season will be complete.
“The job we came here to do was to win the series …,” MSU coach Tom Anastos told SpartanSportsNetwork.com. “The team that won tonight made their luck. They deserved to win.”
Alaska (17-15-4) got a short-handed goal from Cody Kunyk 10:08 into the first period, the first of four straight goals against MSU junior Will Yanakeff. The Nanooks added two in the second period, then got a power-play score from Nolan Huysmans 1:34 into the third.
“Special teams are such a big part of the game,” Anastos said. “We gave up the power-play goal and the short-handed goal, and those were the two key momentum shifts in the game.”
Yanakeff made 31 saves for the Spartans. Anastos said he will decide Sunday who will be in goal for Game 3. Yanakeff has started all four games this season at Alaska and is 2-2 in them. Freshman Jake Hildebrand had a 1-0 shutout in his last start, against Western Michigan last Saturday.
“I thought Will played well tonight and last night. He certainly saw a lot of action and traffic in front,” Anastos said Saturday. “And Hildy is fresh and ready to go.”
Sophomore Tanner Sorenson, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, got MSU’s only goal off assists from Matt Berry and Travis Walsh. Sorenson, who also scored in Friday’s 2-1 MSU overtime victory, now has 13 goals this season. Four of his 15 career goals have come against Alaska.
The Spartans finished 0 for 9 on the power play. Alaska outshot MSU in the game, 35-33. Goalie John Keeney had 32 saves for the Nanooks.
MSU junior center Lee Reimer (leg) left the game, and Anastos said his availability for Game 3 is questionable. Senior defenseman Matt Grassi, who missed Friday’s game with flu-like symptoms, played on Saturday.
The Spartans’ 23 losses are tied for the third-most in program history with the 2008-09 team. MSU lost 27 times in 1977-78 under Amo Bessone, then lost 24 games in the 1979-80 season – Ron Mason’s first as coach.